First Night revelers welcome new year

Boston, MA - 12/31/2012 - Timothy Foley (cq), of Phillipston sits on the shoulders of his father Dennis (cq) wearing 2013 glasses during the Grand Procession. The Grand Procession and fireworks take place for the First Night celebrations in Boston, MA on Monday, December 31, 2012. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff) Slug: n/a Reporter: n/a LOID: 5.1.153337218
Timothy Foley of Phillipston watched the Grand Procession from atop the shoulders of his father, Dennis.
Yoon S. Byun / Globe Staff

Revelers in the Hub cheered the arrival of the New Year under a fireworks display that burst over the Boston Harbor as the clock began ticking on 2013.

At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, a dazzling array of fireworks lit up the Harbor skyline, prompting shouts of approval from a crowd watching at the end of Long Wharf. Some also whistled and tooted plastic horns.

“It’s the first New Year’s together, so it’s kind of a big thing,” said Todd Staffieri, 28, who took in the display with his girlfriend, Liz Annino, 30. “It’s like the whole first kiss at New Year’s, stuff like that.”

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The fireworks show was the culminating event of the city’s annual First Night celebration, which included the Panorama Magazine Grand Procession hours earlier. The parade began moving down Boylston Street just after 5:30 p.m., delighting spectators with a stream of puppets, musicians, unicyclists, and other entertainers.

The crowd, some of whom wore Santa hats and clutched glowing wands, watched as a Revolutionary War-themed pipe-and-drum corps, a dragon puppet that appeared to dance in midair, and a glittering 12-foot lobster with blinking lights passed by at the front of the procession.

“It’s something different,” said Peggy Doyle, 53, of Groton, who came to First Night with her daughter, sister, and nieces. “We haven’t done it before. The girls are a good age. Sisters need to hang out together. And we heard Boston is the place to be, so we’re here.”

Charnita McClain, 35, of the Fenway, had three young daughters who were marching in the parade as part of a group of puppeteers.

“I think you enjoy it more when you’re involved,” McClain said.

She added that she was keeping her eye on Washington, D.C., to see what the New Year has in store for the economy.

“I’m looking forward to finding out about this fiscal cliff,” she said.

John Russell, 81, of Winchester, attended First Night with his wife, Maggie, 78.

They decided to come to Boston because their friends had moved their regular New Year’s Eve get-together to a brunch on New Year’s Day.

“We enjoyed the ice sculptures a lot,” Maggie Russell said. “I think they’re really amazingly done.”

The couple said they plan to stay active in 2013, with a cycling trip in Missouri as part of their itinerary. The climate in the Show Me State is better for winter cycling, said John Russell.

“My bicycle does not like it when it gets to be 32 and below,” he said. “It does not like ice.”

Other First Night offerings included a concert from renowned indie rockers The Magnetic Fields at Symphony Hall, a poetry slam at the Hynes Convention Center, and a performance by an Israeli jazz collective at St. Paul’s Cathedral, according to the program’s official website.

The celebration was scheduled to end with a bang, literally, with a fireworks display at midnight over Boston Harbor to usher in the New Year.

“The skies above Boston Harbor will be transformed into a brilliant tapestry of color, light, and sound when the clocks strike 12,” said a message on the First Night website.

An earlier fireworks display, which was not part of the First Night programming, lit up the sky over the Boston Common at 7 p.m.

Thousands of people, many of them children, perched on their parents’ shoulders, let out cries of “Ooooh!” and “Whoa!” as the fireworks exploded, sending a burst of green, pink, red, orange, and blue lights into the air.

“It was awesome,” Nicholas Sokolovic, 10, of Malden said immediately after the display. “It was amazing. You could feel the sonic boom. Boom boom boom.”

First Night organizers said more than 1 million people were expected to attend Monday night’s festivities.

“Just came in from wandering outside,” an organizer wrote shortly after 7 p.m. on the First Night Twitter feed. “Crowds seem much bigger this year. Lots of buttons. Not surprising, given weather!”

One notable First Night absence was Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who skipped this year’s event and held a private gathering with family and friends at the Parkman House on Beacon Hill, where he continues to recuperate after a lengthy hospital stay, his aides said.