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First Night Buffalo to celebrate 30 years of family fun

An up-and-coming band called the Goo Goo Dolls was among the featured performers for the inaugural First Night Buffalo event held on Dec. 31, 1989. A gallon of gas cost only 97 cents. First Night activities were spread across downtown locations like the Alleyway Theater, Shea’s Performing Arts, local churches and the Main Place Mall.

Thirty years later, First Night 2018 still features local performers in a family-centered, drug- and alcohol-free event, albeit under one roof, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

"It's still all about fun, family-friendly activities, a lot of local acts, local performers, artists and musicians and carnival rides and bounce houses. It's really a traditional local event. We definitely have held true to that," said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation, which has hosted the event since 1992.

New attractions this year for First Night - which will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Dec. 31 - include additional carnival rides and bounce houses, the Black Panther super hero costume character and laser tag, which “I know is going to be a huge hit,” Meyer said.

Also new is ComedySportz, an improvisational comedy act centered around team sports. The act includes audience participation.

“It’s a really interactive way to get people engaged,” Meyer said.

The event, which draws about 5,000 visitors annually, will include a variety of entertainment in different rooms.

“Once you come in the convention door, you can go upstairs, downstairs, large rooms, side rooms. One room is a comedy act. Another room has musicians. There’s a storybook character room,” she said. "We try to turn the entire upstairs into an indoor carnival so kids can run and play and enjoy the activities. The concept of First Night was to provide an alternative to traditional New Year's Eve celebrations."

In celebration of Buffalo's "30th Annual First Night," organizers are giving away 30th anniversary memorabilia magnets that double as picture frames.

An old favorite – the grand finale balloon drop and special countdown – will be held on the main stage beginning at 9:45 p.m. for the “little ones,” Meyer said.

The New Year's Eve celebration is "a great way to bring in 2019 on a good note," said Mayor Byron W. Brown during a news conference Friday morning at the convention center.

Tickets to this year's First Night Buffalo event are available exclusively at FirstNightBuffalo.org. Tickets cost $10 through Saturday; $12 Sunday through Dec. 30; and $15 at the door the day of the event. Admission for children two and under is free.

Free parking will be available at the Fernbach and Main Place Mall parking ramps only, courtesy of Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, the Buffalo Board of Parking and the mayor.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit FirstNightBuffalo.org or call (716)635-4959.

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