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South Florida Welcomes 2011 With Celebrations, Tragedies

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Gary Marion

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MIAMI (CBS4) – From Lighthouse Point to the Southernmost Point, South Florida revelers gathered by the thousands to welcome in 2011, celebrating with a climbing orange, a dropping ball, and a drag queen who made a graceful descent to her adoring public in a giant shoe.

Those celebrations were all part of New Years Eve 2010, as South Florida said good-bye to a year filled with turmoil, economic hardship, and natural disasters, and looked forward for a chance to start anew with something better. For some, that hope was short-lived, as traffic fatalities and one police-involved shooting ended the new year before it had really begun.

In Miami, a crowd estimated at more than 100 thousand packed Bayfront Park to see the rise of the Big Orange, Miami’s 23-year-old tradition to welcome in each new year. As revelers chanted and counted town to 2011, the giant lighted orange climbed to the top of the Intercontinental Hotel, spelling out 2011 as it reached the top amid a giant laser show.

Crowds awaiting the arrival of the new year were treated to a free disco party in the park.

In Ft. Lauderdale, the city’s downtown area was choked with crowds to welcome in not only the new year, but the city’s centennial. 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Ft. Lauderdale, and the giant street party welcomed in both the new year and the year-long celebration. The city celebrated with a count-down and the dropping of a giant ball from a crane.

If you were looking for truly unique celebrations, all you had to do was get in the car and head down US1 to the end, in Key West.

Thousands of revelers lined Key West’s Duval Street outside the Bourbon Street Pub complex as drag queen Sushi, played by Gary Marion, presided over the evening’s festivities — lavishly costumed and seated in a glittering ruby slipper suspended above the crowd. 

Seconds before midnight, the red heel-ed shoe carrying Sushi was lowered from the complex’s second-story balcony toward the spectators below.

As midnight struck, Sushi landed and popped the cork on a ceremonial bottle of champagne, welcoming 2011 in true Key West style.

”When I was growing  up,  I never thought I was going to be in a shoe,” Marion quipped. “I wore high heels, but never thought I would be in a high heel.”

The “drag queen drop” wasn’t the only unique New Year’s Eve celebration staged in Key West. On lower Duval Street, crowds watched the descent of a gigantic manmade conch shell, the symbol of the Florida Keys, to the flat roof of Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
 
In the island city’s Historic Seaport, New Year’s Eve revelry combined with a salute to the Florida Keys’ colorful seafaring heritage. Just before midnight, a pirate wench was lowered from the top of a tall ship’s mast, completing her descent as the clock struck and 2011 officially began.

But New Years Eve was not just a night to celebrate, for some.

In far South Dade, between Homestead and Florida City, a motorcyclist was killed New Years Eve by a driver who simply sped away. Miami-Dade police are searching for the driver, and asking for the public’s help.

In Ft. Lauderdale, a man was charged with murder after he shot a friend as the two celebrated New Years Eve at a party. Police said the friend thought the alleged killer was drunk, and offered to drive the man hope. Instead, police said, the man shot his friend.

Less than 2 hours into the new year, reports of gun shots brought Miami police to the area of NW 1st place and 15th street. Officers saw a man they said was carrying a gun, and  according to a department spokesperson, an officer fired after a brief confrontation, killing the man.

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