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Children get chance to ring in new year early

January 1, 2019 GMT

There was still a half-hour until noon. Crystal Ashby stood patiently with her two young children, Ethan and Emma, on the ground floor of Science Central.

It was the family’s first year attending Countdown to Noon at the science center, and they had front row seats to the annual balloon drop.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to stay up until midnight,” Ashby said. “That’s why this was perfect.”

At 12 o’clock sharp, 2,019 balloons would fall toward the crowd, but for now, they were straining against a giant sheet tethered to the ceiling.

“I want to catch one,” 5-year-old Emma said. She would end up leaving with two.


Science Central hosted its first Countdown to Noon in 1997, and this year, more than 1,000 guests were expected to attend the five-hour event that started at 10 a.m.

In addition to the balloon drop, there was face painting, tabletop activities where guests could make noisemakers and other crafts, and refreshments. All exhibits remained open, and science demonstrations went on throughout the building.

“It’s become a family tradition for a lot of people,” said Martin Fisher, executive director. “It’s really cool. The decade I’ve been here, I’ve seen the same families come in year after year.”

Once the balloons were released and floated five stories to the floor, pandemonium began with children trying to collect, or pop, them.

Erin Cromwell and her 5-year-old daughter, Charley, managed to snag two balloons before backing away from the chaos.

“We’re taking our balloons home as souvenirs at this point,” Cromwell said.

With the hands and numbers of a clock painted around her face, Charley sat at a table making New Year’s decorations.

A yearly tradition, it was the pair’s third year waiting at the bottom for the balloons. Later, they planned to use the photo booth, eat at the Olive Garden and visit Fantasy of Lights. Staying up until midnight wasn’t on the agenda.

While Fisher and his staff ring in the New Year a little early, he loves creating that Kodak moment.

“Watching over 2,000 balloons drop down very slowly five stories, it’s breathtaking,” he said. “It’s really cool. It honestly doesn’t matter where you stand.”