Thousands ring in New Year at First Night

YOUNGSTOWN – A joyous mood of happy endings and new beginnings overtook the city’s downtown Tuesday night as the family-friendly First Night celebration entertained a large crowd while the clock ticked toward the new year.

Thousands of residents from across the Mahoning Valley poured into Youngstown, where 13 downtown businesses offered plenty of entertainment for people all ages.

“It’s going to be a great year,” grinning Champion resident Stacey Abruzzi said as she strapped a pair of ice skates on her 9-year-old son, Joseph, at the Covelli Center.

“We wanted to do something kid-oriented this year so we could all be together,” Abruzzi said. “The kids love it here.”

Ice skating wasn’t the only item on the menu at the annual First Night celebration. At the Covelli Center alone, celebrants were offered the chance to interact with clowns or have individual caricatures done.

Monica Sly of Girard stood patiently with her three nieces as Jot the Clown fitted each with a unique balloon model of their choosing.

It has been a difficult year for the family, but Sly is hoping the New Year will bring with it new fortunes.

“Our father is ill,” Sly said. “So, we’re all hoping that he’ll be OK and that everybody else is taken care of with warmth and food.”

Across the street, the OH WOW! Children’s Center bustled with activity as it stayed open extra hours to help ring in 2014.

The WOW interactive exhibits included a camera and green screen, where kids were encouraged to see what it’s like to be a weatherman.

“We had a lot of fun over there,” 11-year old Morgan Heltebran of Girard said.

Meanwhile, the Masonic Temple offered two floors of music, featuring Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Elvis cover bands.

Poland’s Dawn Emanuel spent time at the Ward Beecher Planetarium watching a laser and light show with her two grandchildren.

“We’ve been here every year that they’ve had it and we enjoy it every time,” Emanuel said of First Night. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else for the New Year. This is our yearly ritual.”

The night is capped off with the countdown to midnight, followed by a large firework show ushering in 2014.

“We’re going to try our hardest to stay for the fireworks,” Deanna Robertshaw of Youngstown said. She was on hand with her 5-year-old son Logan.

“I’m lived in Colorado for years and I love the chance to come out and ice skate. This is a really nice thing that they put on and we’re hoping 2014 is going to be a great year.”