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Along with the usual offering of visual arts, children’s entertainment and sports activities, this year’s New Year’s Eve First Night celebration at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center also will feature live animals from Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics and a performance by Latin Souls Dance Group.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of our annual First Night Buffalo event. First Night Buffalo is one of the longest-running First Night events in the nation,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of Independent Health Foundation, sponsor of the event. “It’s hard to believe just 25 years ago, 1989, Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, the Buffalo Bills had not yet played in their first Super Bowl, the average gas price was 98 cents and ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ was one of the most popular movies in America,” Meyer added.

Also featured at a news conference Friday at the convention center was zoologist Jeff Musial, owner of Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics, who brought along two of the critters he plans to showcase at this year’s First Night Buffalo celebration. One was Zulu, a black-and-white ruffed lemur, which is native to Madagascar off the coast of Africa, and the other was Nakita, a 5-month-old cougar.

“I tried to get the kangaroo, but I was not about to run through the field this morning,” Musial said. “You’ll have to come to First Night to see that guy.”

Musial has traveled the East Coast with the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet” and has made more than 30 appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on CBS. He also has made many appearances at First Night Buffalo.

“I’m a big Buffalo boy , and I love doing Buffalo events. I started my business here,” Musial said.

Through its offering of family-friendly activities, First Night Buffalo annually provides a safe and affordable event for thousands of Western New Yorkers, said Dr. Michael W. Cropp, president and chief executive officer of Independent Health.

“We’re dedicated to engaging individuals, families and the community to help promote healthier lifestyles. First Night Buffalo is the perfect place to kick off the new year and start that year on a healthy, positive note,” he said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, a longtime supporter of the foundation’s efforts, attended this morning’s kickoff announcement.

“While First Night Buffalo is a wonderful, family-friendly, drug- and alcohol-free celebration that reminds us about the things we need to do to be healthy for the new year, it’s also a great party. Over the years, my family and I have come to First Night many times and have enjoyed all the festivities,” Brown said.

According to Meyer, one of the additions this year will be a stage where several cultural groups will perform throughout the night. Local dancers Betzy Medyna and Jesenia Gonzalez of Latin Souls Dancer Group, who will be teaming up with a local salsa band on First Night, gave a preview performance Friday. Other additions include comedy juggler Evan Young, the Backyard Circus and the “Red Trouser Show.”

Tickets for the event are now on sale at all area Wegmans locations for $8. Tickets will be $10 at the door.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com