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Houston kids, parents get head start on ringing in 2019

December 31, 2018

Madison and Meagan Williams kept a planner this year documenting their favorite moments of 2018, from flying a plane over Galveston Bay to ziplining on vacation in South Carolina.

On the final day of 2018, Meagan, 9, and Madison, 12, added one more event to their planner: Rockin’ New Year’s Noon at the Children’s Museum of Houston.

“We sat down at the table last night to start our fun days to plan, and this wasn’t on it, but we saw it this morning and said, ‘Let’s run down there and check it out,’” said the Cypress sisters’ father, Gerald Williams. “It’s definitely on the planner for next year.”

An estimated 4,000-plus people — toddlers in fairy-tale costumes, elementary schoolers blaring noisemakers, adults donning hats made of paper bags — joined the Williamses on Monday to ring in the new year 12 hours ahead of time. The annual tradition, believed to date back more than 20 years, includes the dropping of a makeshift ball from the museum’s rooftop at noon, allowing children who can’t quite make midnight to celebrate the start of 2019.

The soiree marks one of the busiest days at the Children’s Museum of Houston, which arranges a sensory overload for wide-awake kids: Brass band marching through the halls, holiday lights dangling from the rafters, confetti shot into the air, dance party in the outdoor courtyard.

“We’ve been to the Children’s Museum before, and they always do a great job, so I guess I was expecting something this elaborate,” said Pasadena resident Elena Diaz, her 6-year-old and 8-year-old sons by her side shortly after the ball drop.

Museum officials instituted a new theme — “Lights, Snow and Ugly Sweaters” — and sprang for additional decorations inside the facility for 2018. The event typically attracts about 4,000 to 5,000 attendees each year.

“During the holidays, we definitely see a lot of people coming in from out of town, and really from around the country and the world,” said Leti Luna, the museum’s digital marketing specialist. “It’s really a chance to highlight what we have to offer and show visitors what Houston has to offer.”

Although the city of Houston does not host a Big Apple-style midnight celebration, civic organizations and local entertainment establishments across the region were to host events. Notably, downtown’s Hyatt Regency Houston planned a massive balloon drop as part of its 41st-annual New Year’s Eve celebration, and the CityCentre complex in Memorial City was to set off rooftop fireworks at midnight.

As they awaited the noon ball drop in the damp cool of the museum’s courtyard, Jessica and Michael Murphy each toted a child — 18-month-old Hailey, bundled in a jet-and-wool cap, and 3-year-old Brooke, donning a Rapunzel dress — for the first stop on their tour of downtown. The Houston residents planned next to visit the Zoo Lights, a busy day expected to tire out their daughters well ahead of midnight.

“It’s tough with the kids at night, so it’s a good thing to get them out and do something for the new year before it gets too late,” Michael Murphy said. “We’re barely able to make it until midnight.”

While the Murphy children weren’t expected to make it to midnight, Meagan Williams said she plans to see the first seconds of the new year. As for her 2019 planner?

“I do want to go skydiving,” Meagan said. “I want to do everything.”

jacob.carpenter@chron.com

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