By Nathan Mayberg and Dan Hust
MONTICELLO/LIBERTY January 6, 2003 The coming of the New Year was handled bravely in Monticello by hundreds of residents who paraded and stood in well-below-freezing temperatures for about two hours New Years Eve on Broadway.
It was handled equally well by about 500 people in Liberty, who gathered on North Main Street to witness the dropping of the villages own Liberty Bell.
Both celebrations were organized by First Night. In Monticello, huge figures standing about 25-30 feet were carried by marchers up St. John Street, down Broadway and back. A group of almost two dozen students performed dance moves.
Fire trucks decorated with lights also made their way down the heart of Monticello. Most of the marchers were made up of Monticello middle and high school students. Several colorful floats also paraded down the route.
One of the floats was organized by the villages Bicentennial Committee. Ariel Escobar, who chaired the float committee for the group, said his group "spent many hard hours working" on a "cake float" made out of cardboard.
One of the more interesting features of the night was the performance of the Bronx Opera at St. Johns Episcopal Church. Several members of the group took turns performing classics such as a piece by the Italian composer Rossini. Other artists that were featured included Bach on the cello, Brahms (with cello and soprano vocals), Cole Porters famous "Night and Day," a portion of Rodgers and Hammersteins The Sound of Music and Bernsteins West Side Story.
In Liberty, there were some performances and special events by local businesses, but most of the fanfare occurred at midnight when the Liberty Bell was dropped from the third story of the Liberty Museum and Arts Center.
Police blocked off a section of North Main Street, and the bell dropped slowly to an excited countdown by the crowd on the street.
A neon sign flashed from 2003 to 2004 minutes after midnight although according to the slightly slow Liberty Presbyterian Churchs clock, the bell fell right on schedule.