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First Night St. Petersburg kicks off 2012

Published Jan. 1, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — Crowds flocked to First Night St. Petersburg on Saturday to greet 2012. The first stop for many was the tree of New Year's resolutions.

The resolutions, written on index cards and taped to an artificial tree, were weighty (lose 30 pounds), ambitious (I will rule the world), traditional (health and happiness), equestrian (own my own horse) and toy-inspired (I want to build the biggest Lego thing in the world.)

Lexi Chiger, 8, of Palm Harbor had no thoughts of world domination. Her resolution was down-to-earth. "I wish to do better in school!" she said.

It was a First Night of resolutions for a new year and reflections of the old. First Night officials expected a crowd of about 20,000 under clear, starry skies.

First Night St. Petersburg has welcomed in the new year since 1993. Organizers say it's the state's biggest such celebration.

Revelers enjoyed music, dance, fireworks, art displays and other activities in an alcohol-free environment around Vinoy Park and Straub Park.

The alcohol-free part was important to Luis Gottardi of Tampa. "You don't have drunks stumbling around," he said as he took a picture of a spiral maze made up of small paper lanterns winding around a tree.

"It's not a spectacle," Gottardi said, explaining why he never misses First Night. "It's very laidback. It's grass roots, a small-town atmosphere."

"It's idyllic," said his wife, Lydia Gottardi.

Tessa stood nearby and watched the crowd. Family members listed Tessa's New Year's resolutions.

"Stop eating," said Knute Steel of Apollo Beach.

"Stop eating our shoes," said Steel's daughter, Morgan, 7. "Stop eating everything."

Tessa, a yellow Lab puppy, looked up with an expression that seemed to promise her best efforts in 2012. Otherwise, she offered no formal guarantees.

As to Knute's New Year's resolution, he simply tapped his stout stomach. "Mine is always the same," he said.

Knute didn't explain. Perhaps he planned to lose weight. Or maybe he just wants to stop tapping his stomach in 2012.

Artist Coralette Damme of St. Petersburg directed passers-by into an art exhibit in a large storage container. It was called "First Night in the Black Forest."

Outside, Damme's friend, Eric Starkweather, also of St. Petersburg, was dressed head-to-toe in a furry outfit. Onlookers tried to guess what he was. A rat, perhaps. Or maybe a bigfoot.

"He's a bear," said Damme. Starkweather appeared to growl at a passing stranger.

Joy and Richard Crandall of St. Petersburg sat on a park bench showing off their new hats to a stranger. Each cost $12. And that was with the blinking lights.

"What a deal," said Richard Crandall, his voice betraying little sarcasm.

He said he had procrastinated too long and hadn't come up with a resolution yet.

"I guess my wish for the new year is not to procrastinate," Crandall said.

And so it went deep into the evening as one year passed into the next and Tampa Bay revelers marked their new beginnings.

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