They lined up as early as 9:30 a.m. — braving the crisp Inner Harbor air — to ring in the new year at Power Plant Live.
Adorned in colorful sparkles, bows and ruffles, the festive bunch of about 3,000 descended on Port Discovery Children's Museum for the 19th annual Noontime New Year's Eve Celebration.
It was an opportunity for children, and their parents, to celebrate the beginning of 2018 well before the ball dropped at midnight.
“This kind of wears them out good so we can hang out later with adults,” attendee Kelly Saraceno said, and laughed.
The Parkville mother was at the event with her two daughters, Mia, 10, and Eva, 6. The girls had just finished having their names written in Japanese. The museum hosted about a dozen activities, ranging from making snow globes to learning about polar bears. The big highlight was the noontime balloon and confetti drop, which was topped off with a juice-and-cookies toast.
“It’s fun,” Eva chipped in as she tugged on her mother's clothes motioning her to another activity. “I like the confetti.”
Mia said she preferred the museum festivities over the traditional midnight ball drop.
“It wouldn't have all the jungle gyms and activities,” she said.
The event started the year of the museum’s opening in 1998, according to Abbi Ludwig, director of marketing for Port Discovery.
“We started it so that families would have an opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve together,” she said. “We want to have an environment that promotes a sense of community.”
Caryn Conradi, mother of Ellie, 9, Hannah, 5, and Liv, 2, has been attending the early celebration for the past nine years. It was Conradi who told the Saracenos about the event. Now both families make it an annual tradition.
“The only time we missed was last year because the kids were sick," said Conradi, of Towson. “It’s a lot if fun for all ages. They all find something fun to do.”
Conradi and her two youngest children were playing in a sandbox. The family snaked their way through the entire museum, which was also open in addition to other sensory activities to pique the interest of the most finicky of tastes.
"This is a fun time, even for the little one,” Conradi said. “She wants to be a part of things.”
By the balloon drop, Liv was fading fast. She lay on her mother’s shoulder and rubbed her eyes. But she recovered in time for the countdown, and the cheerful commotion it generated.
“It’s a good way for kids and family to celebrate,” said an exuberant Nora Thompson, the museum’s director of education. Thompson was dressed head to toe in a polar bear outfit.
“Some families come here every single year,” she said. “They make it a tradition.”
Bryn Parchman, president and CEO of Port Discovery, said the day perfectly encompassed the mission of the museum: to bring families together.
“This event is one of the greatest times of the year to do that,” she said.
For Parchman, the festivities were just the beginning of the fun Sunday. She planned to attend the Ravens game, and then fireworks at the Inner Harbor.
“There are so many great things happening in the city,” she said. “We have to embrace them so they stay here.”