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‘A night of pure joy’

Sat., Jan. 1, 2011

Cold New Year’s Eve can’t put chill on downtown’s traditional festivities

The New Year’s wishes of Henry Groenen, 5, and his brother Jakob, 8, seemed completely attainable at Friday’s 10th annual First Night Spokane.

Jakob wished for “more fireworks,” and Henry, “to see the ball drop.”

With help from their parents, Harald and Patty, the boys tied their wishes to the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ 6-foot-high dream catcher at Kids Night Out, the lead-up to First Night at the Spokane Convention Center.

When the Kids Night Out ended at 6 p.m., a dragon made of green, orange and yellow balloons led a parade of people down Spokane Falls Boulevard into Riverfront Park, where skiers and snowboarders were gearing up for the Rail Jam, dozens of people dashed off on a five-kilometer Resolution Run and a street dance party was getting under way. Organizers said up to 26,000 people were expected to attend this year’s event.

Among the most popular attractions in Riverfront Park were several bonfires where people huddled to escape the bitter cold. Throughout downtown, revelers wrapped themselves in scarves and face masks and bundled up tight in heavy coats, hats and gloves.

“When we get around people, we’ll warm right up,” said a smiling Carol Williams, of Spokane, as she and her neighbor, Deb Baldwin, entered the warmth of Auntie’s Bookstore for music and pottery demonstrations.

The Resolution Runners were encouraged to write down New Year’s resolutions then toss them into a bonfire at the finish.

“I’m going to drink less coffee,” said Bruce Hafferkamp, 53, of Spokane, who participated in the race with his sons, Brian, 15, and Stephen, 17.

The run was the first stop for Kathleen Grier, a regular First Night attendee who was delighted to walk to the celebration for the first time from her new home in Kendall Yards, just across the Spokane River.

Grier, who attended the festivities with the Japanese exchange student she is hosting, had her night planned out, complete with backup options.

After completing her golden mask with blue sparkles in the Outrageous Wild Women of Unity hat- and mask-making room, Grier was going to take in a yoga class, see some tribal fusion dancing, go to Merlyn’s to make a flute and learn to play it, then see the band Emma’s Nasty Apple in the Main Street Garage.

Before the night was out, she wanted to hit the Suzaku Taiko drum demonstration at the library, see the fireworks at the end of the night, then have a late dinner at Sushi Maru before walking back home.

“I have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C,” said Grier, who said First Night capped a great year. “This past year was one of the best years of my life.”

Joyce Tucker, who organized the Wild Women hat-making room, said the women who put it together belong to a spiritual support group at Unity, a nondenominational Christian church. Tucker surveyed the room, which was full of men, women and children completely absorbed in decorating crowns and masks with plastic flowers, sequins, beads and ribbons.

“It’ll be like this all night,” she said. “It’s a night of pure joy.”

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