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Niagara will sparkle on New Year's Eve

Revelers will have their choice of holiday events all over Niagara County on New Year's Eve.

Bashes are being held Friday night in the downtown areas of all three cities in the county, as well as in the Village of Wilson.

In Niagara Falls, the Hard Rock Cafe, hosting its second annual New Year's celebration, hopes for a larger crowd than last year's estimated 10,000.

"This year, there's no longer the [demolished] Wintergarden, so we're facing the stage the other way. The crowd could go all the way to the [Seneca Niagara] casino," said Susan Swiatkowski, sales and marketing manager for the Hard Rock.

The band Smash Mouth will take to the outdoor stage on Old Falls Street about 11 p.m. Music starts at 8 p.m. with three other bands: Son of the Sun, Do Driver and The Rockaz.

There will be a 40-by-80-foot heated tent. "You can go in there for concessions or to warm up. You can stay in there all night if you want, but you'll miss all the fun," Swiatkowski said.

The United Way of Greater Niagara will host family activities in the tent from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and, for the second consecutive year, a 10-foot lighted guitar will descend from a 120-foot tower at midnight.

The main show is a free, all-ages event except for a VIP tent, for which tickets are $75.

Across the border in Niagara Falls, Ont., a free outdoor party in Queen Victoria Park will include live music by Great Big Sea and Barenaked Ladies. The show begins at 6:30 p.m., with fireworks over the Falls at 9 p.m. and midnight.

In North Tonawanda, a five-foot lighted ball will drop at midnight from a pole atop a building near Gateway Park, Mayor Robert G. Ortt said.

That will wrap up "New Year's on the Canal, Gateway Harbor," at Webster and Sweeney streets. It was organized by a group of local volunteers and business owners called 4DNT, which Ortt said stands for "For Downtown North Tonawanda."

The ball drop will be followed by a fireworks display over the canal.

The Eric Spahr Band will perform in a heated tent on Sweeney Street from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Ortt said other bands will be playing "in local watering holes."

"There's also the pub crawl. It's supposed to end right when the ball drops," he added.

Alcohol-free children's events will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in the City of Tonawanda and Rainbow Roller Rink in North Tonawanda. Tickets for the Kids Fun Zones are $5 in advance or $6 the day of the event. Merchants in the Twin Cities also will have a scavenger hunt through their stores Friday night, Ortt said.

In Lockport, the action is at Ulrich City Centre on Main Street, where free music begins at 8 p.m.

Gary Chapman of Papa Leo's Pizzeria, the event organizer, said Peter Robinson will sing the national anthem to open the show, and Kyle van Schoonhoven, a local "American Idol Dream Ticket" winner, will perform. The Teasers will follow him to the stage.

There also will be a petting zoo, including ponies, llamas, goats and sheep, supplied by Lakeview Animal Sanctuary.

At midnight, a lighted ball will drop from a crane provided by Clark Rigging, starting an 18-minute fireworks show. Van Schoonhoven will sing "Auld Lang Syne" and patriotic tunes.

In Wilson, the L'il Apple Ball Drop is geared toward kids and those who don't want to stay up too late. Ann M. Stimm, deputy village clerk-treasurer, said the ball will drop from a Clark Rigging crane at 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Wilson Fire Company on Young Street.

From 7 to 9 p.m., there will be a free party inside the fire hall for those ages 16 and under.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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