Ask a child to name his or her favorite part of First Night Spokane and they have a ready answer:
“Ronald McDonald,” said Allison Lease, 3, who also enjoyed watching the ballet dancers.
“The magic show,” said Soren Hertel, 5, who was called on stage to hold a magic wand.
“Watching the magic show,” said Kaitlyn White, 5, while taking a break from making a percussion shaker out of pasta and tinfoil.
But don’t expect these kids to know anything about the holiday they were celebrating Tuesday evening in downtown Spokane or even what year it is.
“Christmas?” guessed Chris Solscheid, 5.
“December?” Kaitlyn guessed.
“I don’t know,” Soren said.
More than 30,000 people were expected to celebrate New Year’s Tuesday night at First Night Spokane, the nonprofit downtown, family-friendly arts festival. The event kicked off with its children’s festival, Kids Night Out, at the Spokane Convention Center. Attendees watched magic shows, ballet and a voice artist. They marched in a parade alongside two giant puppets and a balloon dragon made by artist Ryan Oelrich.
They made lanterns, race cars, crowns and masks at a dozen or so activity booths assisted by more than 200 volunteers.
Organizers worked with a small budget. Fran Menzel, chairwoman of Kids Night Out, said the budget to buy crafts was $500. With 5,000 people expected at Kids Night, volunteers had to be creative. Crowns were made from old First Night posters. Race cars were made from toilet paper tubes.
“I have all my friends collecting rolls of toilet paper,” said Menzel, a former preschool teacher.
Parents were generally impressed with the offerings.
“It’s a blast,” said Kimberly Curry, who attended with her husband and three kids. “I’m so impressed with all the things they have for kids to do.”
Lona Barnum, executive director of First Night Spokane, said she was expecting record attendance because of the relatively mild weather. Attendance usually is between 30,000 and 35,000, she said.
New this year was a karaoke contest with a $1,000 prize. As always, fireworks were scheduled to end the event at midnight.
But most parents at Kids Night said their kids would be in bed by that time. Poppy White and Chris Eddy, Kaitlyn White’s parents, said they’d leave about 8 p.m. Kaitlyn wouldn’t be the only who wouldn’t be awake to ring in the New Year.
“We’ll probably crash soon after,” Poppy White said.