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'First Fairfax' Rings in the New Year

Fairfax residents and visitors can ring out the bicentennial and ring in 2006 at "First Fairfax," a city-sponsored New Year's Eve celebration taking place throughout downtown Fairfax.

Through the evening, visitors can find an inflatable playground for children, cotton candy and popcorn and a model train station in George Mason Square, on the corner of North Street and Old Lee Highway. Horse and carriage rides run all evening, starting in George Mason Square.

An ice rink will be set up in the Webb Lot on the corner of North Street and University Drive, along with a video wall showing scenes of Fairfax's bicentennial year.

The lighting of the Bicentennial Bonfire will take place at 6:30, at a location to be determined.

Starting at 6 p.m. in Old Town Hall, families can enjoy storytelling by Barbara Effron, puppets by Bob Brown Puppets, as well as balloon animals, caricature artists, face painting, and Fairfax High School students performing scenes from "Wizard of Oz."

A Yule log and hot cider will be provided all evening in the Kitty Pozer Garden, and at 6 p.m., Mayor Rob Lederer, the City Council and members of Historic Fairfax City, Inc. will dedicate a time capsule by the Rotary Clock.

Candelight tours of the Ratcliffe-Allison House will begin at 7 p.m. and last until 10 p.m.

The Ken Smith Band will play in the Dickson Lot, on Main Street between Chain Bridge Road and University Drive, starting at 6 p.m. The Black Cat Blues Band will follow at 7:45 p.m., and bands sponsored by T.T. Reynold's and Auld Shebeen will play starting at 8:30 p.m.

Visitors can watch circus acts from juggling to unicycle riding in the Sager Lot, on the corner of Sager Avenue and University Drive. At 8 p.m., the DC Comedy Club will perform.

Ceili band Sior Og and several guest musicians will provide Irish sounds at 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., in the Old Courthouse. At 7:15 p.m. in the Old Courthouse, storyteller Gary Lloyd will perform.

The countdown to 2006 will begin just before midnight, when a fireworks display will be set off from the Webb Lot.

Food will also be available all evening from street vendors as well as downtown restaurants.

For more information, visit the City of Fairfax Web site at www.fairfaxva.gov, or call 703-352-ARTS (2787). Shuttle bus service will run from George Mason University and Fairfax high School from 5:30 p.m. Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1. For accommodations, call 703-385-7850 at least five days before the event.

— Lea Mae Rice