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Thousands of local residents will celebrate the new year in family-friendly style when First Night Buffalo stages its 24th annual New Year’s Eve event in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Carrie Meyer is executive director of the Independent Health Foundation, which sponsors the drug- and alcohol-free event. She talked with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer about some highlights of this year’s event in an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. To get a sneak preview of activities at First Night, watch the full five-minute segment at BuffaloNews.com/video,

Q: Give us a little bit of the history of First Night.

A: It originated in Boston [Mass.] over 35 years ago, and it’s celebrated in over 100 cities across the nation. We believe First Night Buffalo is one of the longest-running First Nights in the country.

Q: You bring in thousands of people.

A: We do, We have about 5,000 people that come down to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. It’s a great family tradition here in Western New York.

Q: We’re here at the Hammerl Amusements workshop in Clarence, where 28 rides come for upkeep and sprucing up. We’re right in front of the Berry-Go-Round. This is one of the rides that’s going to be there on New Year’s Eve.

A: That’s right. We set up the exhibit floor at the convention center as a carnival. We’ll have ... carnival rides and bounce houses. And we have so many different activities and entertainment at First Night.

Q: Talk about a few of those activities.

A: In between all the different rides ... we have two stages. We have a music stage so people can come out and dance and sing along. On the other side of the exhibit floor, we have a stage that ... features some really unique entertainers. We’re bringing in this new year two entertainers from the Boston area. One is called Wade Live. He is a magician that does all these zany, crazy, fun magical acts. Families will really enjoy him. Then we have a show called the Red Trouser [Show]. These two gentlemen do very high-energy acrobatic shows. They juggle knives and fire; really exciting and entertaining.

Q: The main theme ever since this event began [focused] on the drug- and alcohol-free theme. We have an interesting twist this year ... over 600 pieces of art and poems done by students will be displayed. Tell us about that.

A: We partnered with Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse. In the fall of the school year, they reached out to all the elementary and middle schools, and asked if they would like to take part in a poetry and poster contest. The whole concept is living a drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyle. We had over 600 entries come in, and we were just so pleased and excited. We wanted to feature and focus on all those beautiful artworks and poetry that we received from the children. So all the families throughout Western New York can come and read their message.

Q: Is there any interfacing with other events that are going on [New Year’s Eve]?

A: There is the ball drop. We end our event at around 10 or 10:30 ... We encourage them to go out and go to the different restaurants downtown, go to the ball drop, engage in the activities throughout the city.

Q: Is parking going to be an issue?

A: We do have free parking at the Main Place Mall ramp and also the Fernbach ramp, and that’s right next to the convention center. You can go to www.firstnightbuffalo.org and get a listing of all the different entertainers and activities. Everything is included with your ticket. The tickets are available at all Wegmans locations. They’re $8 in advance and $10 at the door.