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DECATUR — The Happy Noon Year celebration hosted at the Children’s Museum of Illinois on Sunday sounded more like the 4th of July once the balloons were let loose.

The child-themed early welcome of 2018 resounded to a staccato series of loud bangs as many cascading balloons – falling a little after the stroke of 12 p.m. due to a reluctant-to-open net in the lobby – did not survive the embrace of eager clutching hands.

The noise of balloons bursting in air added to the sense of celebration as laughing parents snapped pictures and children scrambled to seize a balloon that might survive the trip home. Other siblings, having got a taste for serial detonation, hunted down and popped any surviving balloon within reach.

It was all good exhausting fun that had got rolling with face-painting, crafts and other attractions at the museum at 10 a.m. and would continue until 2 p.m. Several sleepy heads had already had to quit well before then, however, clutched by exiting parents dreaming of extended nap time when they got them home.

“That is always the hope, right?” said Amber Kaylor, the museum’s executive director. She said Happy Noon Year, with its theme of giving kids a chance to experience adult excitement at seeing in a new year, remains one of the museum’s most popular events.

And, in the past, a little too popular. Reveller numbers were not limited in earlier years and overcrowding squeezed some of the joy out of the occasion. “Now we’ve made it a pre-registered event where we cap the numbers,” explained Kaylor. “We have 250 guests today, aged from babies to some 9 and 10-year-olds I’ve seen running around, and it’s a much more enjoyable experience now.”

She got no argument from Decatur Mom Stacey Ledbetter, who was busy in a craft room helping 4-year-old daughter Olivia decorate a colorful New Year’s crown. “We’ve had a lot of fun today,” she said.

“And with the cold weather outside, it’s great to be able to do something inside. I am glad we came.”

Clint McLeod from Assumption was fully engaged helping his kids, Charlee, 2, and 3-year-old Calvin, master the art of printing with blocks. “Yeah, all this is a great activity for kids on a cold day,” said McLeod. “And, if they burn up enough energy, they might get a nap.”

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