Barbara Fields’ favorite part of New Year’s Eve happens at about five minutes after 11 p.m., when the Drug and Alcohol Free New Year’s Eve is wrapping up.
That’s when she joins with her children and grandchildren and hundreds of her Platte County neighbors in hugs and handshakes and good wishes for the new year.
For Kara and Philip Bouillette of Prairie Village, their favorite part of New Year’s Eve is around noon when their two children join dozens more for songs, activities and a big balloon drop.
It’s not that the Fields and Bouillette families and their friends are confused about the hour at which the new year begins. These families represent thousands in the metro area who will celebrate in family-friendly environments without alcohol and much of the revelry and fanfare typically associated with the strike of midnight.
More than 400 people will celebrate at PinStripes at PrairieFire Dec. 31 in Overland Park. The milk and cookie toast with the 2 p.m. balloon drop is the highlight of activities that include bowling, face painting, and horse and wagon rides, all coordinated by Kansas City Moms Blog.
The Fields family of Kansas City, North, will take part in the 20th annual Drug and Alcohol Free New Year’s Eve, an event begun in 1996 by the Park Hill Community Drug Task Force. Originally, the party was a few hours of swimming, basketball and other activities at Park Hill Middle School and the district’s aquatic center. Later in the evening, it moved to the Old Mill Emporium in downtown Parkville for dancing and fireworks over the river at midnight.
“Just because there’s no alcohol, there’s no reason to think this is a quiet, boring event,” said Barbara Fields, 68, who has attended with her children and grandchildren for at least 15 years.
“You don’t have to worry about people around you being vulgar or wild behavior. People who come are just here for an authentic good time with their family and community.”
Fields’ grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 16, first learned to ice skate during this New Year’s Eve event that attracts around 500 people each year. Fields used to ice skate and roller skate with the kids, but now her favorite part is dancing to the song “YMCA” at the YMCA.
Rich Linden of Overland Park has been the DJ for the dance party component of the celebration for all but one of the 20 years.
“The biggest distinction about this event and others I do is the huge collaboration between area businesses, churches and other organizations,” Linden said. “I’ve often turned down much higher paying New Year’s Eve gigs because I enjoy working with this community event instead.”
Indeed, this 20th celebration involves five locations and dozens of donations from area businesses. Over the years, a number of businesses and volunteers have supported the event, including the Park Hill Community Alliance for Youth and Tri-County Mental Health Services. Others provide door prizes, food and equipment.
The planning and responsibility for the party has changed and evolved in the past two decades. Today, Matthew Mann, a youth and family program director at the Platte County South YMCA, heads up the effort.
“There’s no board or any one organization that makes this happen,” said Mann, who began working at the Y in 2013. “It’s just good people who care about the event and want to see it continue.”
Mann, who has worked in similar positions in Springfield, is not aware of any New Year’s Eve event like this anywhere in Kansas or Missouri. Of the many accomplishments of the initiative over the years, he is most amazed that in 20 years, the admission price per individual has stayed at $5.
As the event has evolved, the organizers decided to end the party around 11 p.m. The idea is that families can get their young children to bed just a little earlier, but also to have them safe at home before other revelers who may have consumed alcohol or other substances hit the road after midnight.
That thought process is one reason Kara and Philip Bouillette of Prairie Village enjoy celebrating WonderEve, a family-friendly event that has been held at the Wonderscope Children’s Museum in Shawnee since at least 2002.
The party begins at 9 a.m. with crafts, magic shows, snacks and story time. It concludes shortly after Mr. Stinky Feet, Jim Cosgrove, counts down the noon hour followed by a balloon drop.
“It’s often hard for parents with little ones to find a babysitter and create time for themselves on New Year’s Eve, but this allows us a fun celebration for everyone in the family without a lot of effort,” said Kara Bouillette, 38, who also serves on the Wonderscope board.
“Of course, we visit Wonderscope often, but I think they understand that on this day we’re going for something special,” Bouillette said. “My 7-year-old is finally beginning to grasp a sense of time and the idea of a new beginning, and that’s very exciting for us as parents to watch.”
The Bouillette family has now fully embraced Mr. Stinky Feet and WonderEve as a part of their holiday tradition, and are happy to be at home with everyone asleep when the clock strikes midnight.
“Believe me, we wouldn’t want our kids to be up until midnight,” she said. “We would pay for that for days.”
Here’s a look at some of the family-friendly events happening on Dec. 31:
20th annual Drug and Alcohol Free New Year’s Eve
Events run through the day at various locations in the Northland from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
▪ 1 p.m.–4 p.m. Ice skating, Line Creek Community Center, 5940 N.W. Waukomis Drive, Kansas City
▪ 3 p.m.–6 p.m. Board games, basketball, pickleball, Riverside Community Center, 4498 N.W. High Drive, Riverside
▪ 4–6 p.m. Movie and popcorn, Hope Fellowship Church, 8350 N. Conant Ave., Kansas City
▪ 6 p.m.–8 p.m. Roller skating, 4720 N.W. Gateway, Riverside
▪ 8 p.m.–11 p.m. Swimming, food, party, Platte County Community Center South YMCA, 8875 Clark Ave., Parkville
Other family-friendly options
▪ Kid’s Fest - New Year’s Eve Bash, 2-3 p.m. Dec. 29
Mid-Continent Public Libraries, Boardwalk Branch
8656 N. Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, 816-741-9011
Getting a head start on the festivities, the Boardwalk branch will offer some of the most popular craft projects from the past year, including decorating a journal, creating an exercise cube and designing with duct tape. The celebration ends with a balloon drop and confetti poppers.
Best for ages 5-11.
▪ WonderEve, Wonderscope Children’s Museum, 9 a.m.-noon, Dec. 31
5700 King St., Shawnee, 913-287-8888, wonderscope.org
Join Mr. Stinky Feet, Jim Cosgrove, in celebration with balloon artists, crafts projects, story time, snacks and a big countdown to noon with confetti bombs and party hats.
Admission: $7; those under 3 admitted free.
▪ Zoo Year’s Eve at the Kansas City Zoo, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 31
6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, 816-595-1234, kansascityzoo.com
Even if the weather is frightful, celebrate indoors in the lobby and the polar bear passageway with art projects, music and treats. As noon approaches, a zookeeper climbs the rockworks around the polar bear enclosure and as an excited crowd counts down to noon, throws a big foam ball to Berlin the polar bear, who is sure to splash her way into the new year.
▪ Noon Year’s Eve at PrairieFire PinStripes, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Dec. 31
13500 Nall Ave. Overland Park, 913-681-2255, http://kansascity.citymomsblog.com/events/upcoming-events/
Sponsored by Kansas City Moms Blog, this event includes bowling, horse and wagon rides, a Lego Mini-City build, lots of crafts and sensory-friendly activities for kids of all ages. Everything that makes a party happens here, including caricature artists and face painting, music, door prizes and food. Toast the balloon drop with milk and cookies.
Admission: $15 (adults 13 and older); $10 – 4-12 years old; under 3 free.
▪ “Batman Returns,” Kansas City Public Library, Main Branch, 1:30 p.m. Dec. 31
14 W. Tenth St., Kansas City
Throughout the month of December, the library has celebrated the works of Tim Burton, concluding with his 1992 interpretation of the Batman series. A special reason to see this film is the screening location in the film vault, the actual bank vault of the former First National Bank.
Admission: Free; rated PG-13
▪ Noon Year’s Eve, Science City/Union Station, noon-7 p.m. Dec. 31
30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City
All party animals are invited to use Science City’s 3-D printer to make party animal necklaces, one of several maker-activities at this fourth annual event. And then hang out with real animals afterward in the nature center. Stage shows and science activities will feature the magic and mystery of science — things that just can’t be explained until you know the science. At 6 p.m., a 2,000 balloon drop ends the day in time for families to head home for more safe celebrations.
Admission: $13.50 adults; $11.50 children 3-12.
▪ Celebrate NYE at T-Rex Cafe with Dexter, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 31
Legends Outlets, Kansas City, Kan., 913-334-8888; trexcafe.com/promos
Special games, music and a free goodie bag highlight dinner with the big dinosaur. The evening ends with a sparkling cider toast and balloon drop; champagne is available for adults. Reservations required.
Admission: $16 adults; $8 children