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Tens of thousands flock to Stonehenge to celebrate Summer Solstice

Jun 21, 2009

STONEHENGE, England - An estimated record number of people flocked to Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in southern England on Sunday to greet the Summer Solstice.

More than 35,000 revellers, according to organizers, took part in the early morning celebration and many of them drove to the World Heritage site in the hours leading up to sunrise at 0458 BST, causing brief road congestion in the area.

Around 6,000 cars packed a temporary parking area in the Salisbury Plain while a great number of people chose to arrive overnight and stayed up chanting and dancing.

"Many more people come this year because it's weekend and the weather was expected to be good. It was raining last year." said Fritz Macaulay from the local police force.

In Britain, Stonehenge has become a traditional focal point of the occasion, with a combination of religious ceremony and all-night party, to mark the dawn of the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

The visitors circling the ancient site, some wrapped in blankets, were in high spirits despite overcast skies. A cheerful ovation broke out when patchy rays of sunlight peaked through the clouds around 5 am BST.

"I came here at 6 pm yesterday and have never slept since then. But it's fun as I spent the whole night with friends, drinking some beer," said a French tourist named Gael Brelet.

"It's my first time to be here. We didn't actually see the sunrise, but it doesn't matter as you just want to have the festive atmosphere and enjoy yourselves," he added.

Although about 25 were arrested for minor disorder and drug offences, the event was largely peaceful with more than 200 police dispatched in place.

Police had drafted in extra officers to crack down on antisocial behavior and vowed a zero-tolerance approach to drugs and drunkenness.

English Heritage, which manages the site, imposed alcohol limit of no more than four cans of beer or a bottle of wine per person.

The ancient stone circle is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions, visited by more than 750,000 people a year.

Tens of thousands flock to Stonehenge to celebrate Summer Solstice
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