10:38am

Tue June 21, 2011
Europe

Thousands Gather At Stonehenge For Summer Solstice

Thousands of people swarmed over at the ancient rock formation of Stonehenge on Tuesday to celebrate the dawn of the summer solstice — the longest day of the year.

More than 18,000 neo-pagans, new agers and curious visitors shouted and banged drums and tambourines at the Stonehenge circle, a group of giant bounders in the middle of an English field, even though clouds blocked out the sunrise at 4:52 a.m. local time.

They braved heavy rain that fell across the Salisbury Plain, about 80 miles southwest of London, to mark the day. The solstice predates the Christian calendar and is a significant occasion for those who are Druids and Pagans, which are now recognized religions in Britain.

Police say the event was good natured. They made just 20 arrests, most for minor drug offenses.

Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. It is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions, with more than 850,000 visitors a year.

Larry Miller reported from London for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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