New Year's celebration keeps focus on children

First Night Youngstown is making changes for variety as it marks its fifth year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- First Night Youngstown is about families, and that means kids.
In recognition, the alcohol-free New Year's celebration of the arts downtown is adding a child-centered venue and renewing a kid favorite.
The new Mahoning Valley Children's Museum at Boardman and Walnut streets will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve as part of First Night. Entertainers will perform while kids work their way around the hands-on exhibits.
At the museum Tuesday, First Night unveiled its 2005 logo: a penguin with a top hat and walking stick designed by George Beaver of Directed Technologies of Youngstown. The penguin is a takeoff on the 31 artfully decorated, fiberglass penguin sculptures displayed around the area this year.
In addition, organizers announced they are keeping a 9 p.m. fireworks show added last year just for children.
Many parents complimented organizers for offering one of the first fireworks shows their children have ever seen, said William Carnie, First Night president. Many fireworks displays, including the one at midnight after the First Night ball drop, are too late for little ones, he said.
"It's really all about [kids]," Carnie said. "That was one of the highlights of last year."
Children 12 and under are admitted free to First Night performances, a policy from last year that sticks, too.
Admission buttons are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens and youths ages 13 through college, with identification. More information -- at -- is available on where and when the buttons are for sale.
First Night Youngstown marks its fifth year and is making some changes to maintain variety, said John R. Swierz, vice president.
New this year will be a reservation-only dinner show at the Masonic Temple on Wick Avenue. There will be dinner and a performance by The Entertainers. The five-member group will perform a variety show of songs from World War II, dubbed a United Service Organizations review. The cost is $20 and includes a First Night button. Reservations are limited to 200 people.
The temple, a new venue, also will be open from 9 to 11 p.m. as a food service spot offering sausage sandwiches.
Other entertainment
Instead of a battle of the bands at Choffin Career Center, a teen dance with a disc jockey and live music will be at First Presbyterian Church on Wick Avenue. Choffin is unavailable because asbestos removal will happen during the school's winter break.
The main stage presentation at Edward W. Powers Auditorium will be a two-hour performance called Gospel Through the Ages. An 80-member choir and 40- to 50-member orchestra of local performers will trace the history of gospel music, said director Michael Moritz.
The performance, including some narration, starts with music from the Civil War era and moves to southern, American-European and contemporary Christian gospel.
Horse-and-carriage rides will be expanded to two carriages because of high demand. This year the route will be up and down the soon-to-open rebuilt Federal Street.
Last year's event drew about 3,200 people and organizers are hoping to top the 5,000 mark.

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