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First Night celebration to return to base

Buffalo's premiere New Year's Eve celebration for the entire family will come home Saturday to downtown.

After five years in the city's Museum District, the 17th annual First Night Buffalo will return to the Buffalo Convention Center.

The event was moved to the Elmwood Avenue-Lincoln Parkway corridor to help kick off the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pan-American Exposition, but organizers said the multiple venues, especially those outdoors, posed problems.

First Night fits well downtown, with the other activities happening New Year's Eve, including the annual ball drop at Roosevelt Square and ice skating at Rotary Rink in Fountain Plaza, said Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place.

"Obviously, we're very excited because First Night is coming back downtown," Schmand said. "It's going to be a nice night to be in downtown Buffalo."

First Night, sponsored by the Independent Health Foundation, will run from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, featuring a variety of amusement rides, games and family-friendly entertainers in the Convention Center.

Tickets are available at Wegmans for $7, or can be purchased at the door for $10. Children 2 or younger will be admitted free.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will extend Metro Rail hours on New Year's Eve, with the last outbound train scheduled to leave downtown at 2 a.m.

But complimentary parking will be available in three ramps: Fernbach, 200 Pearl St.; Main Place, 223 Pearl St.; and Mohawk, 477 Washington St.

"We're very pleased that free parking will be available for First Night attendees, which makes the event even more accommodating for everyone attending," said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation.

The night will conclude with the Buffalo Balldrop and Fireworks Display, presented by 97 Rock and sponsored by Jim Ball Pontiac-Buick-GMC & Resale, Independent Health Foundation, Iskalo Development Corp. and WKBW-TV. Proceeds from the celebration will benefit the Police Athletic League of Buffalo.

Live entertainment will begin at 11 p.m., climaxing at midnight with the ball drop from top of the Electric Tower followed by a fireworks display.

Those coming downtown should be aware of street closings from Saturday morning until 8 a.m. Sunday.

By 10 a.m. Saturday, traffic will be barred from the vicinity of the Electric Building with the closing of Washington Street between Genesee and East Huron streets, East Huron between Pearl and Washington, and Genesee between Main and Ellicott. By 4 p.m., Washington between Chippewa and Mohawk also will be closed, as will East Huron between Pearl and Ellicott.

Closing between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 a.m. Sunday are Oak Street from Goodell Street to East Huron Street; Genesee at Ellicott and Elm; and Chippewa at Ellicott.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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