For the 24th straight New Year’s Eve, hundreds of local families with children in tow streamed into the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for a variety of amusement rides and live entertainment.
First Night Buffalo, the drug-and alcohol-free family event sponsored by the Independent Health Foundation, has become for many the preferred way to ring in the New Year. Monday continued that tradition.
“It’s all in one place. You know it’s safe. It’s contained,” said Keith Langlotz of Clarence, who attended First Night Buffalo with his wife, Shawndre, his 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, and two sons, Grant, 6, and Blake, 4.
“There are lots of different activities, at least for our kids at this age level. There is enough to keep them entertained and it’s over at a reasonable hour,” added Langlotz, summing up the advantages of celebrating New Year’s Eve at the convention center.
“Also, the price is good,” added Shawndre Langlotz.
Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation, said First Night Buffalo is one of the longest-running celebrations of its kind in the country. The First Night franchise was launched in Boston more than 35 years ago.
“It’s celebrated across many different cities across the country,” said Meyer.
In addition to several amusement rides stationed on the second floor of the convention center, two main stages featured live entertainment. The Red Trouser show, a combination of precision acrobatics and high-skill knife and fire juggling, was one of the newer features. Seven-year-old Owen Lindsay of Charlottesville, Va., got to participate in the act with the performers, while his parents, Mark and Christine, and sister, Madelyne, 10, looked on from the audience.
“It was cool. I thought they were going to do something that was like kids wouldn’t be able to do, but I had fun up there,” said Owen.
His father, a Western New York native, said it was his first time bringing the family to First Night Buffalo.
“It’s been great, especially to be able to be indoors on a cold day like this. This is my first time here. … It’s nice to see all the amusement park rides for the kids. We’re going to go and check out the ball drop [in Roosevelt Plaza] afterwards,” said Mark Lindsay.
Antoinette Crouse of Buffalo’s East Side also attended for the first time. Joining her were her daughter, granddaughter, an assortment of nephews and nieces, and a sister, Ebony Weary.
“There is so much stuff up here,” Crouse marveled. “I had no idea they could fit all this up in here. I haven’t even been downstairs yet and I know there is plenty going on down there,” she said.
Rich and Jackie Boron of Marilla are veterans of the annual celebration.
“We’ve been coming for the last two or three years,” said Rich Boron, who brought his 4-year-old daughter, Faith, and her friend, Quinn.
“The kids can have some fun and stuff like that. It’s more for them than the adults,” he added.
Faith’s favorite activities were the bounce houses.
On the first floor were a variety of live acts, including a magic show, a bubble show and an exhibit featuring live birds of prey.
“New is the toddler room, in which we have our costumed characters, a favorite every year,” said Meyer. “People want to see the storybook characters. So we have the characters in there, along with mini bounce houses for children age 5 and under, and other activities. Kids can also make New Year’s Eve [party] hats and decorate them. We try to make it very interactive and engaging for the whole family.”
“In other rooms, we have laser tag. That’s something the parents and the kids can get involved with,” she added.