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2 July 2000
Summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge

Amid the beating of drums, the sound of cheers - and, in fine English fashion, the pouring rain - thousands of revelers celebrated the summer solstice at the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge.
      For the first time since 1984, English Heritage - which manages the circle of stones on Salisbury Plain in southern England - allowed observers to watch the sun rise on the year's longest day at the ancient monument, 80 miles southwest of London.
      The sun was not forthcoming, but that didn't seem to bother the 6,000-strong crowd of druids, New Age followers and curiosity-seekers. Samba drummers mixed with robed druids, and thousands of revelers packed the center of the stone circle as dawn came at 4:44 a.m.
      "People came here to party, to celebrate," said Stephen Wilson of the Council of British Druids. "It's the first solstice of the millennium."
      In contrast to previous years, Wiltshire police, who had 40 officers at Stonehenge, made only two arrests during the eight hours the site was open. "It was most definitely a success," said an English Heritage spokeswoman. "We were delighted at the large turnout and we will consider more managed open access in the future."
      Revelers were banned from holding solstice ceremonies at the 5,000-year-old site in 1985 after clashes with police. In 1998, English Heritage allowed 100 people to gather within the encircling rocks at dawn to celebrate the summer solstice as part of a step toward admitting larger crowds. Last year, Stonehenge was opened to 150 druids who planned a sunrise ceremony. But about two hundred people crashed the event, clambered on the stones and clashed with police. Sixteen people were arrested, and others remained there in defiance of police, prompting the cancellation of the druid celebration.

Sources: Washington Post (21 June 2000), Fox News (21 June 2000)

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