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Revelers enjoy nice weather and activities at First Night in St. Pete


Ten-year-old Kirsten Litchfield lives in upstate New York, and she's scared of heights.

But she was in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday evening, hoisting herself up a cleverly arranged rope and pulley, rising higher and higher into the branches of a landmark banyan tree near the Museum of Fine Arts.

"I can't believe she did it," said her father, Chris.

Said Kirsten: "It was awesome."

And fitting, because the people who crowded downtown St. Petersburg on Monday night came to cast away the old (2012) and embrace the new (2013.)

People joined St. Petersburg's 20th First Night celebration by wending their way through a candlelit labyrinth, by dancing in drum circles, by watching ballet and listening to music. They got tattoos — the temporary kind — and made resolutions that may prove just as fleeting.

Amber Wisler, a teacher from Tampa, said she liked the collection of so much music and art, combined with a laid-back atmosphere. She was especially looking forward to the bonfire where people could write down and burn their worst memories of 2012 or, for that matter, light up their newest resolutions.

"Any time there's the lighting of a fire, I'm in," she said.

Others crowded into the BayWalk shopping center to watch performers such as 14-year-old singer Macy Kate and 10-year-old DJ Baby Chino, also known as " The World's Youngest DJ."

That's a title you can't hold on to forever, but for now, his mother, Maria Garza, said, people are amazed to see someone so young who can skillfully spin his favorite music.

"They're not sure if he's a little person or if he's an actual kid," she said.

One woman walked the sidewalks and got people to smile with a very simple gesture — she handed out realistic-looking million-dollar bills. Each one had President Rutherford B. Hayes on the front and Scripture on the back.

Others walked through Williams Park beneath a string of Chinese-style paper lanterns, most hand-painted with fish designs. The display was a tribute to St. Petersburg artist Bill Correira, better known as Woo. His death in November was one of the sad moments of 2012, but the tribute carried his memory into 2013.

Fireworks lit up the waterfront, and the music went all the way from classical to Cajun, but the biggest headliner of all may simply have been the weather.

"Seventy-two degrees today — the big storm's up North," said Bill Suba, a volunteer who was helping at the Woo display.

First Night is decidedly alcohol-free, but this was not the case at restaurants on Beach Drive and elsewhere downtown. Just about every sidewalk seemed filled with tables topped with pizza, steaks and glasses of wine, as music reverberated down the streets from nearby bars, First Night venues and Jannus Live.

Revelers enjoy nice weather and activities at First Night in St. Pete 12/31/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 10:14pm]
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