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First Night Buffalo adds new twists for New Year's Eve

Families who attend First Night Buffalo on New Year’s Eve will find familiar attractions that they’ve experienced during previous installments over three decades, including carnival rides, bounce houses, live animals and a dance party.

Organizers helping the Independent Health Foundation bring off the 31st annual drug- and alcohol-free event also wanted to mix thing up – in big ways.

“We wanted to make it an opportunity for families to come out and experience something new and different,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the foundation. “We feel that we're really taking it to the next level this year.”

First Night Buffalo starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., and comes to a crescendo at 9:45 with the Buffalo Singing Cops, a balloon drop and confetti.

The second floor of the convention center will look much the same as past years, with one significant twist – live performances by the Bird’s Nest Circus Arts aerial troupe.

Participants will experience much of the reshaped First Night Buffalo on the first floor. For the first time, roller skating will take place there – 200 skates of all sizes can be borrowed – and three civic organizations will enliven part of the space, too.

“We feel that we're really taking it to the next level this year," Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation, says about this year's First Night Buffalo on New Year's Eve. (Robert Kirkham/News file photo)

Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology high school students will use their talents to transform a Black Bubble Light Dance Room into a glow-in-the dark enchanted forest.

The Buffalo and Erie County Library System will operate a storybook room that includes live characters, arts and crafts, and book giveaways. Visitors also can sign up for library cards.

Project Play Western New York will lead kids in backyard sports and games.

John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, partnering with First Night for the first time, is working with the foundation to throw a free “Noon Year’s Eve” celebration early Tuesday afternoon in the lobby of the hospital. Costumed characters also will visit rooms to provide gifts to kids who are hospitalized.

First Night Buffalo advance tickets are available for $15 at firstnightbuffalo.org and will cost $17 at the door. All events and activities are included with admission. Complimentary parking for First Night attendees is available at the Fernbach parking ramp near the convention center.

“We feel this is a perfect time for people to reflect, to create healthy goals and to improve their lifestyles,” Meyer said.

First Night is one of six signature events for the Independent Health Foundation, and the only one that isn’t free.

“Most of our events are more comprehensive,” Meyer said. “They're going continuously throughout the year and we work very closely with the schools and the community centers and the parks, and where people are working and playing.”

Other signature events:

An annual Kids Run for families help kick off summer and encourage healthy habits while children are not in school.

Healthy Options, which encourages dining establishments, schools and workplaces to sign on to more nutritious eating. More than 150 restaurants, 50 food trucks, the Buffalo Zoo, and events including the Taste of Buffalo and Food Truck Tuesdays have pledged to provide at least some healthy options as part of the program.

The Fitness for Kids Challenge, which involves more than 10,000 students in more than 600 schools in grades K-5 who are encouraged to follow national 9-5-2-1-0 daily goals: Nine hours of sleep, five servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, at least one hour of physical fitness, and zero sugary drinks.

Good for the Neighborhood, which connects underserved communities with health and wellness resources in their communities.

Soccer for Success, which brings soccer to 44 schools and parks.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon

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