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Madison's family-friendly NYE celebration still going after 27 years

Madison's family-friendly NYE celebration still going after 27 years


Madison’s big, alcohol-free, family New Year’s Eve bash has a new name, new venues, new activities and earlier hours so the littlest kids can get home to bed on time.

What had long been known as U.S. Bank Eve, and before that, Firstar Eve, is now My Family New Year’s Eve, renamed by organizers with KEVA Sports Center in Middleton. The festive event provides a range of high-energy, family-friendly activities and entertainment in four locations.

KEVA has been a venue for the past seven of the event’s 27 years, said organizer David O’Keefe, whose title at KEVA is vice president of sales and fun. KEVA took over production of the event last year after U.S. Bank pulled out after putting it on for 25 years. Last year’s title sponsor, Zimbrick, is no longer part of the event, either.

“Firstar and US Bank have done a wonderful job,” O’Keefe said. “We continue on because it’s just great for the community and the kids and families. It’s still a low-cost event so we can get as many people as we can into it.”

Children 3 or younger are free; those 4-17 are $7 in advance and $9 at the door; adults are $9 in advance or $13 at the door.

And thanks to eight “Paying It Forward” sponsors — eight businesses or organizations that bought tickets and then donated them to local charities, schools and other groups — about 1,400 tickets will go to those who might otherwise have not been able to go.

In the past, US Bank estimated combined turnouts of 10,000 people to Monona Terrace and other venues for the event, but O’Keefe said the festivities drew about 3,000 people last year.

This year, in addition to Monona Terrace and KEVA Sports Center, Madison Ice Arena and Hartmeyer Ice Arena will be part of the celebration. The rinks will be open from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 for skating. Those with tickets can move freely between venues.

Rick Wilcox, whose Las Vegas-style magic show had been part of the festivities for years, is no longer performing at the event. He’s just too expensive, organizers said. Instead, Monona Terrace will feature area performers Wayne the Wizard, puppeteer Reid Miller and Wild Rumpus Circus with hands-on activities.

O’Keefe said he learned a lot from organizing the event last year and therefore is doing a lot more smaller shows and activities this year.

“We have six or seven shows every hour, just so people have entertainment all the time they can go to,” he said.

KEVA Sports Center will host music by David Landau, open-play sports, arts and crafts, and cookie decorating, where children decorate and eat their own creations. The activity fills up fast every year and “the cookies disappear,” O’Keefe said.

Sun Prairie High School students will perform songs from the Dr Seuss musical “Seussical” and will take pictures with guests at Monona Terrace and KEVA.

The event is featuring many more interactive, hands-on activities this year: Engineering for Kids, laser tag, inflatables to bounce on, and martial arts will be going on at Monona Terrace.

New at Monona Terrace this year is a “musical instrument petting zoo,” where the Madison Area Music Association will sponsor an open room with instruments children can “touch, feel and play,” O’Keefe said.

Monona Terrace can hold 3,000 to 4,000 people, while Keva’s capacity is 850. The ice arenas can host up to 400 people each.

The event hasn’t had fireworks in years, but there’s always been a countdown and balloon drop. The faux New Year’s countdown will take place at Monona Terrace and KEVA at 7:30 p.m. The ice arenas will close at 6:30 p.m. to allow party-goers to get to the balloon drops at the other locations.

Other New Year’s Eve events for families, which are not part of My Family New Year’s Eve, include:

  • A New Year’s Eve Dance Party from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Madison Children’s Museum, 100 N. Hamilton St. $8 museum admission for adults and children.
  • Zoo lights at Henry Vilas Zoo from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Train and carousel rides. $7 (ages 3 and under free).

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