At 8 p.m. Dec. 31, 2013, a large, sparkling ball dropped from the ceiling of Milaca’s old high school gym as a celebration led by noisemakers welcomed in the new year.
Sure, it was four hours before midnight, but that didn’t stop the youngsters of Milaca from ringing in 2014 in style.
Milaca’s Early Childhood program sponsored Rockin’ Eve, a family New Year’s Eve event designed to allow younger children to enjoy all the excitement of the final holiday celebration of the year.
The activities were seemingly endless, as pointed out by Bob Sumner, Milaca Community Education director.
There was open swimming in the high school pool, open gym, a bouncy house and movies on the screen in Dahlager Theater. There were board games being played, dancing with the support of a portable sound system, free family photos by Dustin Hoeper Photography, a raffle and crafts – that’s where the noisemakers came from.
Shortly before 8 p.m., a countdown began, starting at 20.
“We wanted to simulate for the little guys the excitement adults have at midnight,” Sumner said.
“When we got to 15, the rattles and shakers that kids made were moving in full force,” he said. “When the ball got half-way down, the kids were really excited.”
And when the clock hit 8 p.m., the gym was just crazy with excitement.
Being Rockin’ Eve’s first year, the event was deemed a huge success, he said.
By the time was all said and done, 82 children, their parents and other family members celebrated New Year’s Eve with the Early Childhood program. Estimates are that about 150 stopped by the school on New Year’s Eve, Sumner said.
When it came to drawing up plans for Rockin’ Eve, Sumner was inspired by a New Year’s Eve family event at St. Cloud State where he worked as a graduate student.
“I brought the idea with me and proposed it to our staff in August or September,” Sumner recalled.
The idea for Milaca was to have a drop-in Early Childhood event, and centering it around New Year’s Eve seemed like the perfect reason for a celebration.
“Many people are looking for a family event on New Year’s Eve,” Sumner said.
As school officials continued discussing the event, they focused on creating activities geared towards children, from infants to second grade, but being fun enough that any youth would want to come.
Not only did about 150 people attend the event, it was widely embraced by the Milaca community. There were 22 students and nine staff members who volunteered at the event. There were a handful of volunteers from the community, as well.
A great amount of support for Rockin’ Eve came from the Milaca business community, as well. Teal’s Market donated backpacks to each Rockin’ Eve attendee and provided food and gifts for the raffle, as well. Milaca Building Center donated a shovel and a flashlight. Jim’s Mille Lacs Disposal donated $25 to the raffle, and Thifty White Pharmacy donated board games and an outdoor thermos. Dustin Hoeper Photography manned the Rockin’ Eve photo booth and provided each attendee with a portrait photo.
“The community really stepped up,” Sumner said.