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BALLS TO MARK NEW YEAR -- BOTH DANCING AND FALLING

Area revelers will have plenty to choose from Friday night as memorable occasions are being staged around the city to ring in the new century.

The Mayor's Millennium Ball is a formal affair set to take place behind the thick stone walls of the fortlike Armory building on Times Square. It is sponsored by the Olean YMCA and a limited number of tickets were sold through Dec. 10 at a cost of $100 per person to benefit the Louis V. Marra Youth 2000 Endowment Fund.

The guest of honor is 107-year-old area resident Martha Luce, who will dance with Mayor James P. Griffin at 11:15 p.m. Before the night is over, organizers say, Mrs. Luce will have seen all of the 20th century and part of the 19th and 21st centuries during her lifetime.

The ball begins at 8 and guests will dine between 9 and 11 on gourmet fare served at seven elaborate buffet bars designed in a New York/New Year's Eve theme. The menu promises another round of culinary delights with a breakfast buffet from 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

The event is the result of almost a year of planning by a 25-member committee and took some impetus from the ideas of local businessman and caterer Louis V. Marra Jr., who contributed to and volunteered in local youth programs. He died earlier this year in an auto accident in Bradford.

Three musical groups will furnish entertainment and at midnight two large screens will project images of the New York City ball drop.

Ball-goers may also join nearby crowds at the free uptown celebration nearby. There, all traffic between North Union Street and Bluebird Square will be halted by police officers from 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. as crews prepare to drop a ball at the city's main intersection of Union and State Streets.

According to organizers, the ball is equipped with lights and measures 6 feet in diameter. It will be dropped from the Olean Fire Department's ladder truck at the stroke of midnight.

Across town, a free fireworks display and an unprecedented ball-rising will mark a nonalcoholic celebration for revelers outdoors near St. Bonaventure University at the Olean-Allegany town boundary line.

"We thought we should have a ball-rising, the community's first ever, to show a rise to the occasion of the new millennium instead of a drop," said Margaret Kenney of the event's co-sponsor, Chamber of Commerce of Olean and Vicinity Inc.

As it goes up, the ball will appear to be propelled on flickering flames and the number 2000 will glow, she said.

The Chamber and co-sponsor WMXO also plan a First Night Millennium Celebration nearby at the Castle Restaurant for guests over 21. The party will feature two bands and an Elvis impersonator, for $10 admission. Teens will celebrate at a YMCA ice-skating party at the city's William O. Smith Recreation Center.

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