Watching the ball drop — at noon

At half past noon on New Year's Eve, slivers of yellow confetti littered the main lobby of the Maryland Science Center, where employees worked to sweep them up.

There, the ball had already dropped — long before the stroke of midnight which, for most, would mark the beginning of 2012.

But the midday revelers Saturday said the annual tradition offered by the Science Center, and another at Port Discovery, allows kids — and some parents — to enjoy the traditional New Year's countdown and still get a full night's sleep.

Jennifer Lucas of Federal Hill came with her two daughters, Harper, 3, and Jaxyn, 5, to see the silver ball drop to the countdown in the center's main lobby overlooking Harborplace.

"They love it," she said, adding that the noontime event would be the main New Year celebration for her and her husband, Dan, as well. She spoke over the hum of a vacuum cleaner attempting to pluck up the stubborn bits of confetti.

The popular kids' band Milkshake performed up until the ball drop and led the countdown. By 1 p.m., crews had dismantled the microphones and picked up various props.

Upstairs, however, lines of parents and children still waited to make noisemakers from plastic water bottles filled with beads and glitter, while others worked on construction paper hats adorned with feathers and pipe cleaners. At another table, some waited to make snow globes with little penguin and polar bear figurines.

Four-year-old Jada Avent from Essex clutched hers.

"To them, it's a big deal," said Jada's mother, Ashley Avent. She said her daughter had never seen the famous ball drop in Times Square on TV and they had never gone to any of the late-night local events, such as the Inner Harbor fireworks or the ball drop in Hampden. But Jada was going to begin 2012 (or at least end 2011) with the tradition. The two planned to sip glasses of sparkling grape juice Saturday night and attempt to watch Times Square's countdown.

While the countdown attracted some families to the Science Center, others were drawn by the music.

Self-proclaimed Milkshake "groupies" Larry and Eileen Berman came with their 4-year-old daughter, Julia, to watch one of their favorite bands perform. The Mount Washington family said they come every year to the event.

"She's out like a light by 9 o'clock," Larry Berman said of his daughter.

But at the Science Center, "we can celebrate as a family," his wife added. "It's nice that it can appeal to adults and children."

Port Discovery held its 12th Annual Noontime New Year: Masquerade Bash, which encouraged attendees to dress in costume and featured a juice and cookie toast. The event also had a sing-along, Mardi Gras mask and bead making, face painting and other activities.

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