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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Balloons drop at the stroke of noon during Science Central's 18th annual Countdown to Noon celebration on Sunday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette 2018 inflated balloons fall from the rafters of Science Central onto hundreds of anxious children during the New Years Eve Ball Drop celebration on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Guests try to catch balloons as they fall from the rafters of Science Central during the New Years Eve Ball Drop celebration on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette 2018 inflated balloons fall from the rafters of Science Central onto hundreds of anxious children during the New Years Eve Ball Drop celebration on Sunday.  

Monday, January 01, 2018 1:00 am

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Early jump on New Year's celebration

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Staying up until midnight to ring in 2018 didn't seem like an option for 3-year-old Emmalie Mast – at least according to her mother.

“Nope, that's why we come to this,” Kristen Mast of Fort Wayne said inside a bustling Science Central on Sunday afternoon.

With its 18th annual Countdown to Noon, families could celebrate the new year 12 hours early with a soda toast, face painting, the making of party hats and noisemakers, and – the most anticipated moment – the release of 2,018 balloons.

Hundreds of visitors crowded beneath the bundled balloons as Executive Director Martin S. Fisher welcomed the revelers, several of whom had children on their shoulders.

Together, he and the spectators counted down the seconds to noon, their collective voice louder for the final 10.

Then came the balloons, which cascaded from an unfurled banner.

“That was the main point,” said Nina Billingsley, who brought four children ages 3 to 13 to the event.

Fisher – who wore a festive clock headpiece – said the annual, high-energy event is a great way to cap off the calendar year.

“It's become a family tradition for a lot of folks,” he said, noting it typically attracts 600 to 800 people from the tri-state area.

Science Central, which closed at 3 p.m., reported about 1,130 visitors throughout Sunday.

Some, including Joe and Emily Pasquali, only recently learned about the celebration. The couple brought their 1-year-old son, Primo, and said it was a way for them to spend New Year's together before Joe Pasquali had to work.

Primo, who got a blue balloon, seemed to enjoy the festivities from atop his father's shoulders.

“He is happy,” Emily Pasquali confirmed, taking photographs with her phone.

For some children, one balloon wasn't enough. Kristen Mast and her mother, Jan Newton, together held six for toddler Emmalie.

“She didn't want to pop them,” Mast said. “And she'll collect more if she finds more.”

asloboda@jg.net