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Westerly - Over the past three years, a New Year's Eve party for families in downtown Westerly has grown to the point where this year it has to move to the Westerly Armory to accommodate the crowds.
The party, which is sponsored by the Stela Parties and Events Relay for Life team, has essentially replaced the old First Night Westerly celebration, which ended in 2008 after 13 years.
Along with activities, music and food, the highlight of the party comes at 8:15 p.m. when kids get to ring in the New Year with a large bubble release and noisemakers.
"We all have kids and when we originally thought about doing this we said First Night was so much fun but there wasn't anything to do with kids anymore on New Year's Eve. So we gave it a shot the first year to see if people would respond and it was crazy," said Stephanie Barber, who owns Stela Parties and Events, and organizes the event with other volunteers.
The first two years the event was held at the Westerly Land Trust headquarters, which she said could no longer accommodate the crowds.
"We had lines outside. We wanted to make it more comfortable and expand what we could so," she said about the move to the Armory, which also hosted some of the First Night activities.
Admission is free and all proceeds from the sale of tickets for food and some activities go to the American Cancer Society. Many of the events, though, are free, according to Barber.
"We tried to make this affordable so everyone can come," Barber said. "And we try to have something for every age group."
She said a donation can be made to the cancer society because businesses and others in the community have been so generous with donations.
Barber said she expects about 300 people will attend this year's event, which will be held today from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., a time which she said still gives adults a chance to go out and ring in the New Year afterward.
This year's celebration features carnival games, big Jenga, face painting, a hayride, masquerade mask making and an opportunity to take photos with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Simply Enchanted.
There will be music and dancing by Jay's Music Service, balloons and balloon animals, a visit with the elves from 731 Productions and emergency vehicle tours.
At 6 p.m., Kuvie and Tuvie, the elves from 731 Productions, will tell why they landed here in Westerly. At 6:30 p.m. Rapunzel from Simply Enchanted will give a magical performance followed by a hula hoop contest at 7:30 p.m.