Ring in the New Year with family fun

Voices calling out the countdown, lips kissing, cheering and applause for the arrival of the new year are familiar sounds of Dec. 31. The clinking of champagne glasses, or beer bottles is noise heard often during New Year’s Eve celebrations, but alcohol related festivities can be dangerous, especially once people get on the road.

Undersherrif John Zerby said there has been a decrease in illegal activity on Friday Harbor on New Year’s Eve especially incidents involving alcohol, which he owes in part to the increase of police on the street on Dec. 31.And Island Rec and the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition would like the trend of safer celebrating to continue.

That’s why they have teamed up to offer an alcohol-free community party on New Year’s Eve, 7- 9 p.m. at the Mullis Center. It may not stop alcohol abuse, but “It sets an example of how you can still ‘party’ without alcohol and drugs,” said Sally Thomsen, Island Rec’s director.  “And then the real treat is that we celebrate at East Coast time — 9 p.m., so you can get up the next morning start the year bright and early, while being healthy.”

Over the last seven years the event has grown to a party with 100 to 200 people showing up for a variety of activities including a hat making contest and parade, bingo, dancing, photo booth, prizes, Wii tournaments, trivia, a slideshow countdown and more.

“We have a variety of things,” said Rebecca Clarke, recreation specialist. “We spice it up every year with new activities.”

Last year, Island Rec introduced Wii games, which has been a big hit and the hat decorating has traditionally been a crowd pleaser resulting in outrageous to simple hats.Clarke, describes last year’s event as a lot of whooping and hollering with a big conga line of about 100 people in decorated hats, which suddenly turned into an impromptu dance party just before the count down.

This year there are plenty of “carnival-esque” games, where kids can win tickets and cash them in for prizes — Chuck E. Cheese style.Every year, Clarke enjoys watching kids’ eyes grow big as they win a toy, even something as simple as a matchbox car.She says that New Year’s Eve may be stereotypically be all about champagne toasts, but this celebration at the Mullis Center gives people the opportunity to start a new tradition.

“This is an alternative to that, everyone gets into, its fun,” said Clarke. “There is something to be said for not waking up with a hangover. We’re just trying to give out a memorable experience — to remember a New Year’s Eve that was really fun, and family oriented.”

Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.  Beverages will be provided — attendees are asked to bring along a potluck dish to share.

For more info call 378-4953.