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Fredericksburg rings in New Year

Photos by Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance-Star

Revelers ready for a better year


Hundreds of revelers descended on downtown Fredericksburg Monday night to ring in the New Year.

Street performers juggled in the streets; musicians rocked in tents and children jumped in moon bounces.

Some partygoers wore flashing hats or glittered headbands. But the New Year’s bling didn’t sparkle as brightly as in years past.

Perhaps because many were simply limping to the end of a painful year. Nationwide, 2012 included super storms, mass shootings, a divisive election followed by the protracted debate in Washington over the fiscal cliff.

Fredericksburg’s First Night celebration seemed muted in many ways. There were fewer glittery glasses than usual. And the vuvuzelas were a bit quieter.

But the most poignant signs of last year’s scars showed up at the Wishing Tree.

Annually, First Night attendees can write a wish for the coming year on a construction paper leaf and hang it on a wooden tree.

This year, those wishes included some mainstays: “love,” “peace,” “money” and “a bigger house.” But they included signs of struggles: “to pay off bills,” “for my wife to get a liver transplant” and “an easy recovery.”

And then there was the simply heartbreaking wish, written in a child’s handwriting “to feel safe at school.”

Nancy Hinkley, a visiting Massachusetts resident, cried as she read that wish, most likely a reference to the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Fredericksburg resident April Antaya wished that “everything will be better this year.”

Antaya was out of work for six months before finding a new job at a WaWa store. She said she feels like she’s back on her feet.

Antaya’s mother suggested skipping 2013, because of the year’s unlucky number. But Antaya is ready for whatever the new year has to offer.

“Every year you have food on the table and you’re paying the bills, it’s a good year, regardless of the number,” she said.

The gymnasts from Cheer Fusion hope that’s true—and they’re already seeing a glimmer of hope for 2013. The cheerleading and dance studio lost its Spotsylvania home during a microburst in July. They’ve since found a new place, said owner Connie Allen. But it’s unfurnished.

The dance moms and dads baked brownies, sweet breads and cookies to sell at the First Night celebration to raise money for mirrors to put on the walls.

Even without amenities, the dancers have already won some competitions, Allen said. The group’s hip-hop dance team will head to Orlando, Fla., in April for a national competition.

“I hope for the kids to be safe and to do well and to enjoy themselves next year,” Allen said.

As the dancers hawked their baked goods and coffee, many revelers walked by decked in Redskins gear, representing another group finding hope in 2013.

On Sunday, the Redskins beat the Cowboys to advance to the playoffs. And for ’Skins fans across the area, this offers hope that 2013 will bring a Super Bowl run.

Hope runs deep despite the rocky year, said psychic Bianca Channing. She reads palms and tarot cards for Psychic Readings by Sheena, a family business.

On New Year’s Eve, Channing was reading palms downtown and more than 20 people stopped by to learn what 2013 held in store.

“They want to know if their luck’s going to change,” she said. “A lot of people want to know if the economy’s going to change. It’s very scary out there.”

Channing said that she can’t read the overall future, just what lies ahead for each individual. “I see a lot of positive,” she said.

In years past, the First Night organizers celebrated a fresh start at midnight by dropping a lighted pear and later a specially designed pineapple. This year, they ditched the fruit and dropped a lighted globe instead.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973