Rhythmic raps blasted from one of the five stages scattered throughout the Three Rivers Convention Center Tuesday night. Magic tricks astounded the audience surrounding another.
It was First Night Tri-Cities, a family oriented, alcohol-free celebration of the New Year.
"It's a great family event," said Rob Korenko of West Richland. "It's wonderful we have something like this to do in the Tri-Cities. Without this, families with young kids would be sitting at home watching television on New Year's Eve."
He and his wife, Christe, have enjoyed First Night for the past three years. Their daughter, Ava, 3, was all dressed up in her tutu and cowboy boots, while 9-month-old Levi just took in the sights.
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This was the first time the event was held at the convention center. Only the fireworks show was outside.
Organizers of First Night Tri-Cities told the Herald one of the reasons they changed the venue was to bring as many of the activities indoors as possible. At Columbia Basin College, where the event had been held for several years, all of the food vendors were outside and food couldn't be brought into any of the buildings.
"I love the fact that it's all indoors and we don't have to go from building to building like we did when it was at CBC," Christe Korenko said.
The aromas of popcorn, frying doughnuts, pulled pork and pizza scented the air inside the building.
Parker Hodge, president of First Night Tri-Cities, said another change the committee made this year was to book mainly local acts.
"That's what people kept telling us they wanted, as opposed to out-of-town performers," Hodge said.
First Night is a popular event. Families began lining up at the face-painting booth and to get balloons twisted into animals, hats, even a bow and arrow shortly after the doors opened at 4 p.m. Minutes later, delighted shrieks erupted from the two bounce houses and Big Top the Clown was ringed by a half-dozen tots.
Vickie Wright of Pasco took her four younger grandkids to First Night for the second year. Each of them made a beeline for the face-painting booth where two -- Jesse Jamieson, 8, and cousin, Daisy Wright, 8 -- chose a scary skull design. Charlene Wright, 6, and cousin Josie Jamieson, 6, opted for pink cats.
"They love it. Last year they slept in the paint," laughed their grandmother.
The four also said they "really, really liked" Keith Ramsay's Fired Up Magic Show last year.
"It was funny when he pretended to slice himself in half and pulled out his underwear," said Jesse, with a big grin.
Vickie said First Night is a good family event for all ages. Even her teenage grandchildren, who didn't attend this year, had fun the year before.
The children's parents are Dustin and Davida Wright and Craig and Angie Jamieson, all of Pasco.
One of the featured performers at First Night was Cassidy Almquist of Kennewick, who injured her back in a fall last summer and still undergoes physical therapy to reclaim her ability to walk.
Almquist chose to sing a medley of Christian and contemporary songs accompanied on guitar by her boyfriend, Jantzen Filbrun of Pasco.
Though she sang before almost 1,000 people last Sunday at Calvary Chapel in Kennewick, this was her first performance at an event like this, Almquist said.
She admitted to being nervous, but excited too.
"Singing is something I love to do. I'm not aiming to make a career of it but it will always be a part of me," Almquist said.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org