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A night for revelry and resolutions<br> Western New Yorkers, visiting hockey fans find plenty of holiday festivities downtown

If 2011 is half as good as the New Year's Eve festivities enjoyed by revelers Friday night -- and well into the wee hours of this morning -- then the year should turn out OK.

Western New Yorkers bid goodbye to 2010, and rang in the New Year, at ballrooms and ball drops, at loud parties and quiet dinners, on Chippewa Street and at family events like First Night Buffalo.

"It's better than I thought," said David Milliken, 53, of Amherst, who was at the annual drug- and alcohol-free event for the first time on Friday.

"My daughter is 4, so I wanted to get her involved in New Year's a little bit," Milliken said. "She's having a blast."

This year's First Night drew an estimated 4,000 adults and kids to Buffalo Niagara Convention Center on Franklin Street, said Carrie Meyer, executive director of Independent Health Foundation, which organized the event along with Western New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Like Milliken, many ventured to First Night for the first time on Friday.

Brian Tamol brought his family after catching a game at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

"We made a day of it," said Tamol, 40, of Hamburg.

The event had a wide range of New Year's attractions for families, including rides, live music, food, laser tag and shows featuring reptiles, birds and a hypnotist.

"It's a really nice event for the kids, because New Year's Eve has always been about the grown-ups," said Candy Rodriguez, 30, of Amherst.

"Today's my son's eighth birthday, so this is a place where he can enjoy himself," Rodriguez said. "There's a lot of activities we can do for a cheap price."

After First Night closed down at 10 p.m., families strolled over to the historic Electric Tower on Washington Street to watch the ball drop, listen to live music and catch the fireworks display as the clock ticked toward midnight.

Main Street between West Huron and Chippewa streets was bustling with vendors and revelers, as well as skaters enjoying Rotary Rink.

There was a noticeable police presence on downtown streets. The revelers enjoyed the warmer temperatures.

Buffalo had extra visitors this year for downtown celebrations, too, with hockey fans in town for the tournament.

"I think half the people here are visitors. A lot of people are still wearing their hockey jerseys," said Blair Brownridge, a fan from Edmonton, Alberta, on hand for the tournament. I'm going to check out the ball drop, then go back to Chippewa Street."

Canadian fans, however, may not have been in the most festive mood. Their year ended on a sour note, with Team Canada losing to Sweden, 6-5, in overtime Friday.

Plenty of others were ready to move on with 2010, as well.

"It [2010] was so-so," said Mike Whalen, 51 of West Seneca. "Glad to see it go."

"I'm always looking for a better year, definitely employment-wise," said Raymond Walker 53, of Buffalo. "I am employed, but not in the field I'm trained in."

As downtown revelers waited for midnight, they expressed hope about 2011.

Mike and Seija Magin share the same New Year's resolution.

"Find a house," the couple said in unison.

"We sold our house within nine days, so we're looking for one," said Seija Magin, 34, of East Aurora. "We wish we could have found one by now," added Mike Magin, 42, "but hopefully soon."

Rodriguez said she plans on going back to school in 2011.

Walker said he'll work harder on keeping his composure during the New Year.

"In my older age," Walker said, "I don't have the patience I used to have."

Melissa Mazerbo has the same New Year's resolution she has had for the past five years.

"I just want to be a good mom all year long," said Mazerbo, 32, of Newfane, who was at First Night with her two kids.

"And what better way to start than coming here," added her friend, Tammy Frasier, 39, of Lockport. "It's all about the kids."

Meanwhile, Milliken's New Year's resolution may sound familiar.

"Diet," Milliken said. "What else?"

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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