Youths get jump on new year

While the grownups had to wait until midnight, the kiddies started the New Year’s revelries early. With heads topped in decorated paper bag hats and hands filled with rice-confetti plastic cup shakers and balloons, more than 1,000 people from 9 weeks to 90 years old rang in noon at the Louisiana Children’s Museum.

Strollers checked at the door, families poured in and packed the place to capacity as the clock ticked toward noon. It was the museum’s 16th New Year’s Eve-day celebration in its 26-year history.

Prior to the countdown, the youngsters had been partying for hours — navigating ships through the Lil’ Port of New Orleans, shopping in the miniature grocery store and out on the dance floor with the Lagniappe Brass Band.

All morning long the horn players’ raucous notes filled the three floors — and the dance moves were truly one-of-a-kind. On stage, a small group of kids joined the band to assist with clapping as well as creating groovy new boogies.

The special arts and crafts projects were a must-do, especially the hats. Starting with a base of a paper bag rolled up at one end, pipe cleaners, cupcake wrappers and curled ribbons, created limitless possibilities. The jumbo glittery paper bow ties were also a must for do-it-yourself attire.

Wearing her own orange bow tie, grandmother Lynette Brice said her two granddaughters loved the creative art projects. Asked her favorite part of the morning at the museum, granddaughter 6-year-old Iyana Lewis said “all of it, because it’s so special.”

Elizabeth Dunnebacke, museum chief operating officer, said that while the event is attended annually by members, the holiday is also a chance to bring in newcomers. Dunnebacke said that the holiday drives up membership and also acts as an important fundraising day for the museum’s programs.

The museum wasn’t the only party scene for children on Monday. The Audubon Zoo also held a countdown to noon, along with music, clowns, jugglers and other entertainment at its Capital One Stage and Field. That 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. celebration was billed as Zoo Year’s Eve.

At the museum, revelers including many families visiting for the holidays, from San Francisco to Philadelphia, visitors also included many families in town for the holidays.

Parents with late-night plans said the kids would be staying with babysitters or grandparents while they hit the town.

But many of the older youngsters said they were planning on staying up until midnight. Seven-year-old Lorieal Henderson nodded with certainty when asked if she would be staying up for the second New Year’s countdown, though Lorieal’s grandmother said that she had her doubts.

Lorieal said the hat-making was her favorite activity at the museum, and that later she was looking forward to the fireworks.

“It’s great for kids to kick off the New Year,” said Debbi Cenac, of Houma, who was in the city for the day with her 6- and 13-year-olds. “They almost never make it. They try — and sometimes mama doesn’t even make it,” Cenac said. “If we ring in the New Year at noon,we won’t have to worry.”

As the midday mark neared, some of the museum staff made sure there was a red, yellow or blue balloon in each hand while others passed around trays of complimentary plastic lip-shaped whistles.

The band led the count down before the confetti rained, the balloons flew, the noisemakers rattled and blew and everyone cheered to a brassy version of Auld Lang Syne.

The mess left by the confetti drop was exciting in itself. More fun was to be had by throwing the colored square of paper again, spreading them around and tearing them into even smaller pieces.

Then, for most, it was time for a nap.