Safe and fun New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve celebrations often center around alcohol, and waking up Jan. 1 with a groan and glass of water as an unfortunate aftereffect. There are other options that could make that first day of the year more enjoyable.

“The San Juan Island Parks and Recreation’s New Years Eve Community Celebration is the only event that night that is not alcohol-focused,” said Lowell Jons, touth, teen and family programs recreation specialist at Island Parks and Recreation.

This free event takes place at the Mullis Community Senior Center this year, beginning at 7 p.m. According to Jons, there will be new games, including two Xboxes and a Wii, which he expects to be a hit with youth and teen attendees. The popular hat-making contest will return, as will the hat parade, showing off the finished products. For those who love board games, Jons said, there will be plenty of those. Avid Bingo fans will be happy to find a Bingo table ready, and for people more artistically inclined, Parks and Recreation staff will provide a slew of crafting projects as well, including origami, loved by all age groups.

The event first began around 2005 by the San Juan Prevention Coalition, a local nonprofit organization whose mission, as stated on their website, is “to reduce substance abuse in youth and create a community culture supporting healthy choices and responsible behaviors in youth and adults.”

The coalition was trying to reach out to teens when the idea of a New Year’s Eve party first came up, Jons said. Those first New Year’s events separated out teens and youth into their own areas to make sure the entertainment for each group was suitable.

For many years, Island Parks and Rec partnered with the prevention coalition, according to Jons, but for the last several years Parks and Rec have taken over sponsoring the event by themselves. They have worked to make it a community event, incorporating all ages and multiple forms of entertainment. Attendance over the last few years ranged between one and two hundred people.

“One of the most popular years was at Brickworks, the first year it opened,” Jons said. “Everybody was pretty excited about the new building, and we had a little fire pit in the outdoor area.”

While Parks and Rec provide all the makings for the party, the one thing they do ask of the attendees is to bring a sweet or savory snack to share, Jons said.

As a reflection on 2016, Parks and Rec will be playing a slideshow of their events through the year, but for anyone worried about missing the New York annual ball drop, there will be a television with it playing.

“It’s a fun community celebration,” Jons said. “We try to have something everyone can enjoy.”

For more information, visit Parks and Recreation’s website at islandrec.org or call 378-4953.