Chicagoans celebrate New Year's

December 31, 2010 10:57:26 PM PST
The big celebrations kicked off Friday night, but some people were already having fun at Chicago's Navy Pier during the day.

Many families spent their New Year's Eve day storming into Winter WonderFest. It appeared to be a blast for kids enjoying the fake snow, rides, lights, trees and an ice rink open through January 12.

"My niece, Shannon, is in from Texas. We live here in Chicago. So, we're enjoying the day. Fortunately, it's not cold, but we'll take this and go inside and enjoy the festivities inside the winter festival," said Tom McCarthy.

"I'm excited," saidEddie McCarthy. "There's one ride that I'm waiting for, the hang glider. It's my all-time favorite ride."

Eddie McCarthy added that he loved the way the wind felt rushing into his face during the ride.

Navy Pier also hosted a family New Year's Eve bash from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by an 8:15 p.m. fireworks show. The bigger fireworks show was set for the stroke of midnight.

In another part of town, a crowd was starting to form at Binny's late Friday morning. Shoppers were arriving to purchase, beer, liquor and champagne for parties later in the evening. Some said they were gearing up for wild times. Others just planned to curl up with someone special at home.

"I'm staying in, not doing the big parties tonight. Just Eve at home with myself and my lady friend," Jack McCarthy said. "We're going to have some champagne, some cheese and crackers, stuff like that."

Police, city and state officials are warning New Year's revelers not to drink and drive. For folks who may over do it at parties, the CTA is once again offering its penny rides. Starting at 8 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Saturday, a ride on a CTA train or bus will cost just one penny.

Also, it can be a real challenge to get a cab on New Year's Eve in the city. Chicago-based Miller Coors has a Miller Light shuttle that will be offering free rides in the Loop and some parts of the city's North Side near some popular bars.

You can watch all of the New Year's Eve action in Chicago and New York's Times Square Friday night ABC7. Dick Clark's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" with Ryan Seacrest begins at 9 p.m. Nearly 1 million people are expected to pack Times Friday night, which means there's no room for error when the ball drops! Organizers planned a practice run for the Waterford Crystal Ball that will drop at midnight. Thousands of balloons will also float over the crowd this year.

Then, ring in the new year with ABC7's Mark Giangreco and Janet Davies as they co-host "Countdown Chicago." The live, hour-long special features the hottest parties and fireworks, as well as ABC7's Hosea Sanders, and begins Friday at 11:08 p.m.

Police plead for peace on New Year's

On Friday, Police Superintendent Jody Weis stood with community activists and families who have been affected by gun violence.

They called on people to leave guns out of their celebrations on New Year's.

"Those bullets are not looking for a safe landing zone," said Weis. "If you happen to be at the end of that fall it could be catastrophic."

"I beg Chicago - let's not enter 2011 with guns," said Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church. "Let's not send a wrong message to our youth that guns can be redefined for celebration."

Alice Norris's daughter was killed in 1993 in a drive-by shooting. She said her loss was very hard, but she now wants to try and help make it so others don't have to experience the same loss.

"These are my grandchildren. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. I want to see your grandchildren grow up," said Alice Norris of Purpose Over Pain at the press conference. "So if you go celebrate tonight, the best way to do it: ring in the New Year with your bells."

Weis says officers will be out in full force to ensure a safe holiday, paying special attention to high-crime areas.

Illinois cracking down on drunk drivers

Illinois is among seven states enforcing a tough crackdown on suspected drunk drivers this New Year's weekend.

In what's being called a "no refusal weekend," anyone stopped on suspicion of being behind the wheel drunk will not be able to say no to a test of the alcohol level in their blood.

The tactic is designed to close a loophole for drunk driving suspects trying to beat any charges in court.

Judges are on standby this weekend, ready to issue warrants so police can take a blood sample if a suspect declines a breathalyzer test.

The results from that test provide evidence for prosecutors.