Petting animals, singing for peace and a massive steak fry and rodeo have been added this year to the more traditional champagne toasts and party-horn tooting as ways of greeting the new year.

There also will be fake snow for the unusually unwintry New Hampshire and blankets for the homeless in usually warm Phoenix.In the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, at least 100 couples are planning to start off the new year by hitching up with a new spouse, according to the Rev. Ed Taylor, dubbed the "marry-thon" minister of the Smokies.

"This takes the cake. This weekend has turned into the second busiest time of the year," Taylor said Friday. He performed 113 marriages last Valentine's Day.

"We've got four ministers and three chapels going," Taylor said of his interdenominational Gatlinburg Ministries Inc.

West Virginia football fans in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl game Jan. 2 between the No. 3 ranked Mountaineers and No. 1 ranked Notre Dame are planning the "Superbowl of alumni parties," said Steve Douglas, executive director of the West Virginia Alumni Association.

A steak fry and private rodeo are planned Sunday for about 7,500 people, complete with fireworks, dancing and the Mountaineer mascot parading on the back of a bull.

The event, at Rawhide, a Western theme park in Scottsdale, is so massive it is being staged in shifts. About half the crowd will have dinner, while the other half is at the rodeo, and then they'll switch, Douglas said.

In the home of the New Year's tradition synonymous with the chaos of the night's revelry, the ball to be dropped at the stroke of midnight in New York City's Times Square will be different. The wrought-iron ball replaces the red apple used in recent years "because it's a more universal symbol," said Tama Starr, president of Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp., which created the new ball.

The dropping of the ball began in 1908.

New Yorkers who party at a downtown nightclub called B2 will be treated to a shower of dollar bills - $5,000 worth - that will rain onto the dance floor at midnight. A quick-handed partygoer might be able to recoup the $65 price of admission.

At Manhattan's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a free "Concert for Peace" includes a prayer for peace being read by actor Jason Robards and songs by folk singer Odetta.

About 1,000 artists will exhibit and perform on Boston's public plazas and storefront stages for the city's 13th annual First Night celebration.

"It's an opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate the city's cultural life and feel a part of it," said Bruce Rossley, the city's commissioner for arts and humanities.

Rhode Islanders will have a choice of First Night and Last Night celebrations. The fourth annual First Night in Providence is expected to draw about 40,000 people for a variety of alcohol-free festivities. The Last Night is a farewell party at the 100-year-old Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet ballroom, which is closing for at least two years.

At Patriots Square, a new downtown park in Phoenix, there will be space heaters and tents to keep some 1,000 partygoers warm as they watch fireworks and bands New Year's Eve. Low temperatures in recent days have been running in the 20s and 30s, unusually cold for this time of year. Those who attend are being asked to bring blankets for seating during the event, to then be distributed to the homeless.

In New Hampshire, where snow is routine for New Year's, the city of Concord is manufacturing the powdery stuff on the Statehouse lawn for the ice sculptures to be featured in its First Night celebration New Year's Eve. The downtown area will be roped off to traffic so the thousands of celebrants can take in such events as band concerts, dances, puppet shows, chorales, storytelling and trick bike acts, climaxed by fireworks at midnight.

Included in the First Night celebration in Portsmouth, N.H., will be a petting farm featuring farm animals. The idea is to increase the understanding of agriculture among schoolchildren.

And to remind partygoers to keep it a happy new year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Ohio is sponsoring a statewide "Tie One On" program to tie red ribbons on antennas and rearview mirrors as a reminder to motorists not to drink and drive.

The program began Thanksgiving weekend and runs until the new year.