The New Year's Eve celebrations began a little early Sunday for hundreds of young people across the Region.
Yet they were no less exciting, if in a face painting and magician sort of way.
Five-year-old Elena Tillema, of Wheatfield, wasted no time Sunday afternoon in making her way over to a clown doing face painting at the Kids New Year's Eve party at the On the Square Sports Academy in Crown Point.
After looking over her options, Tillema chose an unicorn image and unlike the boy before her, asked for her painting to go on her arm rather than her face.
"When we can do something together, it is nice," said Elena's mother Luz Tillema.
Tillema said it was the first year she took part in the city-sponsored event.
She was invited by friend Calli Bolz, of Crown Point, who shared her table while waiting for her grandchildren to arrive.
"The kids really enjoy it," said Bolz, who has taken part the past four years.
The city has sponsored the event for more than 10 years and was expecting its largest group ever Sunday, said Diana Bosse, special events administrator for Crown Point
"We had to cut it off at 200," she said.
The former high school gymnasium was transformed for the afternoon festivities with a disc jockey and tables decorated with multi-colored New Year's Eve top hats and balloons. A magician was scheduled to make an appearance before the annual afternoon New Year's countdown.
"There's not a lot of things out there for young people to do on New Year's," Bosse said.
Crown Point resident Kristin Overbey took part in the afternoon event with her children — Micayla, 7, and Regan, 5.
It was the family's fifth year at the event, and it has now become a tradition, Overbey said.
"This will be our celebration," she said, "an early countdown."
A large balloon drop was to signal the early New Year's during another children's celebration Sunday afternoon at Bellaboo's Play and Discovery Center in Lake Station.
It was the seventh year for the celebration, and 400 participants were expected, said general manager Kara Mackey.
"It's one of our biggest days," she said.
The young people were treated to various activities, including a Bubble & Fizz Toast, which involved the children making their own floats and then blowing into them with a straw, Mackey said.
"It explodes," she said.
There were also stations to dress up and create art. But the highlight was the countdown followed by the annual dropping of 500 multi-colored balloons and dance party, Mackey said.
Jonathan Wright, of Crown Point, who took part in the city's event, said he and wife used to get together with family to ring in the new year.
But that has changed now that he has children, who are in bed long before the strike of midnight.
"It's a complete game changer having kids," he said. "But I wouldn't change it for the world."