Hundreds of families from Long Island and New York City rang in the new year in Garden City on Saturday — about 12 hours early.
The “Countdown to 12!” New Year’s Eve celebration at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City kicked off at noon, when children and adults watched the first of two Times Square-style ball drops in the museum’s outer lobby.
From there, pop music, confetti and dancing filled the lobby, and parents and children had their choice of celebratory activities.
Young revelers danced along to a DJ, designed top hats, had their faces painted and crafted whistle necklaces and noisemakers.
Kim Renee Nelson, of Riverhead, attended the event last year and convinced her family to join her Saturday.
“Personally, I was really excited to see the ball drop,” she said. She and her brother Paul Nelson, 43, of Riverhead, drove about an hour to the event.
As she watched her nephew, Phayme Nelson, 7, dance with other children on the floor, Kim Nelson said the trip was worth it.
“I thought it was going to be a boring museum, but it’s fun,” said Phayme, smiling as he left the dance floor.
Paul Nelson said he enjoyed his first time at the event, especially watching his nephew Phayme build his own noisemaker.
Long Island Nets players Beau Beech, Carrick Felix and Long Island native J.J. Moore helped lead the first countdown and took pictures with fans at the event. The second ball-drop took place at the end of the event, around 4 p.m.
The museum created the event in 2005 to help families around Long Island celebrate the new year together during the day on New Year’s Eve.
According to museum officials, nearly 20,000 visitors have been a part of the festivities since then.
“I love everything about it,” said Cathy Huang, 47, of Fresh Meadows. Huang spent the day with her sister Jamie Huang, of Merrick, and their children at the event.
Showing off a decorative top hat her daughter Katelynn Huang, 6, made for her, Cathy Huang said she would love to come back next year.
“The kids are. . .having a lot of fun and there’s so much to do,” she said.