Amanda Schafer of Eau Claire danced with her stepdaughter, 7-year-old Sonya Schafer, as they waited in line Saturday for face painting. Sonya’s twin brother, Sam, was already across the building, climbing on inflatables at the New Year’s Eve Eve party at the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center, 3456 Craig Road.
“It’s our first time here,” Amanda Schafer said. “They do a lot of good here, and they have so many options for kids.”
With the cold weather, Schafer was thrilled that the kids were getting a chance to run around and play.
“That’s a huge thing for us, just getting out of the house,” she said. “It’s affordable and very dear to them.”
The celebration featured numerous games, prizes, inflatables, a disc jockey playing kid-friendly pop songs in the background, face painting and balloon animals.
Courtney Meyer of Eau Claire brought her three children, Jadon, 6, Kylie, 3, and Gavin, 13 months old.
“It’s something for the whole family,” Meyer said, adding that her children were looking forward to playing in the bouncy houses.
This was her first time bringing the family to the New Year’s Eve Eve party.
“We’ve done other events here,” Meyer said. “It’s something to get out of the house. It’s so cold out, you can’t play outside. It’s a pretty good event.”
Amy Peterson-Foss, Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center executive director, said the facility has hosted the New Year’s Eve Eve event for about a dozen years, typically a day before the actual holiday. Peterson-Foss said it typically draws 1,000 people.
“The core of our beliefs and being a community center is to have a place for the family to go,” Peterson-Foss said. “It’s about creating memories for the family.”
Elaine Schultz of River Falls brought her daughters, Claire, 7, and Alexis, 5. Schultz said her parents live near the sports center. She saw notice of the event on Facebook and knew she had to bring the girls.
“It’s great because they’ve been doing nothing but running in circles, screaming all day,” Schultz said. “They are going to have a lot of fun tonight. It’s a great facility to have in this area.”
Blake Ojibway brought his five children, ranging in age from four months to 10 years. He also hadn’t attended this event before.
“It’s awesome,” Ojibway said. “They’ve been cooped up all day. They originally didn’t want to come because they thought it was going to be cold. I had to explain to them it is in this giant building.”
Ojibway said he liked that the event is held a day before New Year’s Eve, when there are so many other activities going on. He was impressed with the variety of games available.
“They are having a blast,” Ojibway said. “There are endless activities for them to do.”
The event ran from 5 to 9 p.m., featuring the big balloon drop at 8:30 p.m., with 1,500 balloons hitting the floor. The kids raced around to pop them all to find tickets for prizes hidden inside them.
“It sounds like fireworks for a few minutes, as they stomp them all out,” Peterson-Foss said.
A popular event is the free limousine ride, which takes children on a loop of about two miles, she added. They also provide cookies to children as they leave.
With the inclement weather this week, Peterson-Foss said she’s glad the building could provide an outlet for children to move about and play.
“It’s that activity that is so important for the youth,” she said. “It gets them out of the house where they can expend that energy in a positive way.”
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