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A midnight bash at the Niagara Mohawk Building rang in the New Year and brought to a climax First Night Buffalo, the alcohol- and drug-free celebration in its second year downtown.

An estimated 20,000 people turned out for the seven-hour event, which was capped by a fireworks display and traditional ball drop.

With 133 live shows at 26 sites along Buffalo Place, visitors enjoyed a full menu.

The celebrating couldn't start early enough for the 125 people waiting outside Goldome Bank at 5 p.m. The families were waiting for Kids Korner to open.

Inside were clowns, mimes and a host of do-it-yourself activities -- everything from making party hats to decorating cookies.

"They're involving the kids, which is great," said Gretchen Zalenski of Eggertsville, who came with her husband, Dave, and their 3-year old son, Andrew.

Art Kilanowski of Depew brought his daughter and grandson downtown and liked the family atmosphere.

"We'll stay as long as the kids last," he said.

At any given time, revelers could find themselves in a parade down Main Street, dancing the jitterbug at Ellicott Square or watching fireworks at midnight.

Volunteers seemed to be everywhere. For most of them, it marked a second year of giving up the evening to help promote downtown as a safe, fun place to spend New Year's Eve.

"Buffalo needs support from people like me if we're going to make it a nice place to be on New Year's Eve," said Sally Piscotti, volunteer coordinator at Kids Korner.

The music of of Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller filled Ellicott Square. At the door was Harry Shedd, a volunteer checking buttons as people entered.

"I think it's good for the children," he said. "It shows them that you can listen to music and have fun New Year's Eve without drinking."

A little farther up Main Street, the country-western types gathered at Shea'sBuffalo Theater for a night of liv music and dancing.

"It's nice that all the families came down together," said Robert Sessamen of Buffalo.

Sessamen and 18 others from Buffalo, known as the Little Bit of Texas Country Steppers dance group, were there to perform. They seemed to be having as much fun as people in the audience.

For those inclined to rock and heavy metal music, Main Place Mall was the stop to make. The Pinheads and the Tails performed as the punks and metal heads tuned in.

For some, the drug- and alcohol-free theme was the attraction.

"That makes me feel better," said Heidi Hagar, 14, of Wheatfield. "I hate drugs and alcohol." She and other members of Speak Out, an anti-drug and -alcohol group from Niagara-Wheatfield High School, wanted an alternative to the usual New Year's Eve party.

Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse sponsored First Night in conjunction with Buffalo Place, the City of Buffalo and several local businesses.

Buffalo is one of 60 cities in the United States and Canada to offer a drug- and alcohol-free celebration on New Year's Eve.

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