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Celebration downtown ends 2013 on festive note

At about 9 p.m., a long line of people waited in the chilly air to take a couple slow laps in Hillbilly Mayhem.

“I think this must be the main attraction,” gate attendant Joe Scott said of the monster truck ride in the public parking lot on Sophia Street. “It’s been like this from the start.”

Some said the wait was two hours for those who wanted to hop into the back of the truck for a short spin.

Hopefully, then, it wasn’t a sign of things to come in 2014 when the Hillbilly broke down well before midnight. The disappointed crowd dispersed, among it one little boy, crying as he was led away.

The cries soon faded away, though, overtaken by live music and hundreds of revelers enjoying a scaled back First Night downtown this New Year’s Eve. There were also plenty of people wandering along Caroline Street.

This year’s First Night party was focused along Sophia Street and Riverfront Park, though, as opposed to years’ past when much of downtown’s main streets were closed off for celebrations.

Entertainers performed in numerous venues, from tents to Council Chambers, the Courtyard Marriott and Kid’s Town at the Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) parking lot.

Many of the tents were full, with lines of people waiting to get in.

Kids Town was a popular spot, children enjoying face painting, a big moon bounce and a gyroscope ride which spun kids silly.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. Steve Jarrell and the Sons of the Beach hit the one outdoor stage, which was next to the globe, which for the second year was set to drop at midnight.

The globe replaced its predecessors, the pineapple and pear.

The area next to the stage was another hot spot, where revelers enjoyed a fair-like atmosphere. Food stands sold the traditional fare—kettle corn, gyros, hot dogs. There was also hot chocolate, which also had constantly long lines. “It’s been a good turnout,” said Ron Ross from his kettle corn stand as a constant stream of people walked past.

The year 2013 will be remembered for such things as the Boston Marathon bombing, Big Brother snooping, furloughs, shutdowns and Obamacare.

The federal government furloughs and shutdowns dampened the latter part of 2013 for thousands who live locally and work in the Washington, D.C., area.

While the shutdown was unpopular across the board, locally there were fans and critics alike concerning two other big issues in 2013.

Fredericksburg convinced a new Class A baseball team to come to town, and Spotsylvania brought in the Dominion Raceway, which will bring motor sports to the Thornburg area.

Life in the region also took a ride on the wild side in 2013, with a pair of invasive species coming to town.

In May and June, the region was abuzz with cicadas, who enjoyed about six weeks of freedom after a 17-year hiatus.

Also this summer, snakeheads reared their ugly heads. In June, a Spotsylvania man snagged a world-record snakehead on Aquia Creek.

The region also had a tie to one of the year’s biggest and saddest stories—the Boston Marathon bombing.

When that episode ended, suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dead and his younger brother, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, in custody.

About a month after the bombing incident, it was discovered that bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been buried in a Muslim cemetery in Caroline County.

The year’s events seemed a distant memory Tuesday night, though, as locals filled downtown for one last party and to ring in 2014.

As midnight struck in Fredericksburg, the globe dropped and the fireworks lit up the night sky.

And with that, to 2013 we bid adieu.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436