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Preparation for New Year's Eve bash under way

The countdown to New Year's Eve festivities started today as volunteers began transforming the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center into a carnival-like attraction.

Crews were preparing amusement rides, creating a colorful Storybook Land and setting up chairs for people who will attend a smorgasbord of shows that are part of First Night Buffalo.

For the past 23 years, thousands of local residents have trekked downtown to attend the region's alcohol and drug-free New Year's Eve bash. WNY United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse is once again teaming up with the Independent Health Foundation to stage an event that spans from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Foundation Executive Director Carrie Meyer said this year's festivities include exotic animal shows, a hypnotist laser tag and even an Elvis impersonator. Storybook characters will spring to life. youngsters will be able to frolic in bounce houses and ride merry-go-rounds. There are even activities for health-conscious folks who will be able to have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked.

"It's a great place for families to come together and ring in the new year in a safe and healthy atmosphere," Meyer said.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $8 at all Wegmans stores. Tickets can be bought at the event for $10. Children 2 and younger are free. For a full list of events and information about free parking, visit www.firstnightbuffalo.org.

Over in City Hall, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told reporters the city has a comprehensive plan to promote public safety on New Year's Eve. The downtown district will attract tens of thousands of people who will attend First Night, the Ice Ball at Statler City, the Buffalo Sabres Game, the ball drop and other events.

Brown said the city is working closely with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and the Erie County Sheriff's Department.

"We will have an extensive plan for public safety for New Year's Eve to make sure that the many revelers that come into the City of Buffalo have a fantastic and safe time," Brown said.

bmeyer@buffnews.com

[Published: 3:48 PM]

[Updated: 5:24 PM]

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