New Year's Eve always comes early for kids.
Often, the big moment arrives 12 hours ahead of schedule, with family-friendly countdowns to noon on New Year's Eve common across the suburbs.
But on Saturday, kids ages one to five in Carol Stream got to experience new year's festivities a full two-and-a-half days early during the Carol Stream Park District's Teenie Weenie New Year's Eve Ball at Smikus Recreation Center.
"They don't seem to care" about the earlier date and time, said Suzanne Waghorne, recreation coordinator. "And it's fun to count down to noon."
The event began two hours before the kids' version of midnight to allow plenty of time for crafts, dancing and snacks like popcorn and slices of cheese and bologna in the shape of stars -- finger foods Waghorne said were meant as a child-friendly version of typical new year's hors d'oeuvres.
The event was exactly the stuff home movies are made of and parents caught on quick. Video cameras were rolling all over the gym as kids made new year's countdown clocks on paper plates, applied chocolate frosting and decorative sprinkles to ice cream cones to make party hat desserts, experimented with hula hoops and expended some energy in a bounce house.
"He tried to hula hoop," Diane Peters of Carol Stream said as her five-year-old son, Maxwell, worked on frosting his dessert. "For his first time, he did all right."
As noon approached, park district staffers handed out noisemakers and the decibel level in the gym -- already pumped full of sound from a DJ spinning a mix of current pop songs and disco hits like Abba's "Dancing Queen" and Village People's "YMCA" -- raised another level.
Five-year-old Christy Banaszewski of Carol Stream took a break from dancing around the gym to be one of the first in line to claim a noisemaker. Then she looked up to the ceiling and saw what was coming next: balloons.
A cascade of gold and silver balloons fell gently onto about 100 screaming children and their camera-clicking parents after the ceremonial countdown to noon concluded with a cry of "Happy New Year!"
But the fun -- and the noise -- weren't quite over yet. The fourth annual New Year's Eve Ball concluded with a "Bubble Wrap Stomp" to ring in the new year with the crunchy pop of plastic bubbles breaking.
"When they all stomp on it," Waghorne said, "It sounds like fireworks."