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New Year's celebrated with skates & rides, Frog & Toad, and Bills & Bengals

On the last night of 2017, people in and around Buffalo found many things to celebrate, and many went out to do it together.

For families, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center was turned into a children's carnival Sunday night, as kids and their adults prepared to welcome in 2018 with good old-fashioned fun.

The annual First Night celebration was crowded with kids enjoying amusement rides, bounce houses and storytelling on the second floor, as men on stilts and comic-book characters circulated. The first floor included Frog and Toad and other book characters in costume, and a dance with bubbles in the air and balloons on the ceiling.

"It's a great time, and people are having a ball," said Molly Wild of South Buffalo, with Makeylah, 9, Edward, 7 and Sarah, 6.

Her kids especially liked the dancing and face painting, she said.

"We come here every year," said YaVaun Ground, who lives on the Tuscarora Reservation in Sanborn.

Her four children were inside one of the bounce houses.

"It looks small but it's big," said Maleana Messier, Ground's niece, after she had jumped around inside.

A one end of the floor, some adults were huddled around two televisions, watching the Buffalo Bills game on one and the Baltimore Ravens game on the other. And even though it wasn't the new year yet, the cheers went up as a more important clock turned: A Cincinnati Bengals touchdown sealed the fate of the Ravens and the Bills were heading to the playoffs for the first time this century.

Nearby, at the elegantly decked-out Statler City, guests were beginning to arrive for the seventh annual Ice Ball.

Several blocks away, Canalside offered a more tranquil atmosphere, as ice skaters glided across the ice under a wreath-adorned bridge that crossed the canal, and near a large, brightly lit Christmas tree.

Rob Weichert of Williamsville, skating with his wife, Jen, daughter Maggie and her boyfriend, Ryan, said it was a great way to spend time with the family and get ready to welcome in the New Year.

"I think a lot of the big screen TVs are getting too much of a workout," Weichert said. "People should get out a little bit more, and experience what Buffalo has to offer in the wintertime.

"Like skating in sub-zero temperatures," he said with a smile, before adding, "But you warm up quickly."

Bobbie Jackson was there with his grandson and a neighbor, trying to stay warm while watching them skate. After that, he said, it was on to First Shiloh Baptist Church.

"It's good to be alive," Jackson said. "It's a  blessing."

At Roosevelt Square, the red-and-green lit Electric Tower Building was ready to welcome thousands for the annual ball drop, and send them into 2018 with an explosion of fireworks.


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