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First Night gets the party started

Buffalo's 18th edition of First Night, the alcohol- and drug-free entertainment for New Year's Eve, runs today from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Six venues, including a Madagascar hissing cockroach in the Buffalo Zoomobile (Room 106A), master hypnotist Michael Blaine (center banquet room) and Comedy Sportz improv (Room 101C), will offer a quirky mix of things to do.

The evening's entertainment is sponsored by Independent Health, with admission $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

Free parking is available at the Fernbach, Main Place Mall and Turner parking ramps, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has extended hours for its Metro Rail until 2 a.m.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and his family, along with Daniel Cantara, First Niagara's Western New York regional president, are chairmen of the event.

For more information, call 635-4959 or check online at

A short distance away, at Roosevelt Square, activities for the annual ball drop in front of the Electric Tower begin at 11 p.m., with Jumbotron screens, classic rock and fireworks heralding the arrival of the new year.

Not only will the estimated 40,000 annual celebrants get to watch the lighted ball drop, but a new Ford model called the Edge will drop alongside it. The car's panels were made at the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn.

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