Tonawanda News

January 3, 2013

KEPPELER: NT party appealed to kids, parents alike

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — “I want more ‘Happy New Year!’ “

So said my 4-year-old, barely holding his eyes open, clutching his party hat and noise-maker, as we tucked him into the car Monday night outside Salem United Church of Christ in Tonawanda. I had to point out that there was plenty more “happy new years” to come, but that wasn’t really want he wanted to hear. He wanted to go back in and play some more, bounce some more, win some more prizes.

Let’s just say it was a huge hit.

With all four of us free for the first New Year’s Eve in ... well, probably ever ... the Keppeler family trekked out to the Gateway Harbor New Year’s Eve on the Canal Kids Fun Zone for ages 3 to 10, located at the church. No matter how much they’d like to do so, I knew the boys just weren’t quite at the point of being able to stay up until midnight at their age, so the 9 p.m. “balloon drop” at the zone appealed to us. Everyone should get a chance to count down on New Year’s Eve.

We entered, got our buttons and grab bags and door-prize tickets. The boys peeped in the door while we collected everything ... and they were off.

They played games from bean-bag-toss to bowling (and collected tickets that were ultimately redeemed for a miniature basketball). They ate snacks (fruit and chips) and guzzled lemonade. They donned “New Year’s Eve” hats and plastic leis. The little one got his face painted (a tiny smiley face) and bounded around the bounce houses with other children until he was exhausted. (With that kid’s energy, that’s a good thing.) The bigger one got a green balloon dog that was a prized possession for the next day or so that it lasted. They both won small door prizes (a watch and book) with which they’re utterly enamored.

And at the strike of — well, 9 p.m. — they chanted the countdown with every other kid and adult in the room, and leap for the hundreds of balloons that dropped from the ceiling. Two of those balloons are still being tossed around our house, reminders of the last night of 2012 and their own special way of “ringing in” 2013.

That’s what they’ll remember.

For my part, I’ll remember the huge amount of volunteers that somehow kept things moving smoothly, a tricky endeavor when you have dozens of excited small children in two rooms. It can’t be easy to get that amount of help and organization on a night when most people have their own plans and parties, but not only did they do it, they did it with a smile.

Like many families, we didn’t make it to the outdoor midnight ball drop. Maybe it’s on time, maybe it’s not. The new year gets here no matter what.

But on the last night of 2012, my boys had a blast ... and ultimately, they were so tired that they slept until the unheard-of time of 9 a.m. the next morning.

And for that, 4DNT Inc, I thank you.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at