Kids, families celebrate ‘Noon Year’s Eve’ at the Crocker Art Museum

The day before New Year’s is probably one of the few times that kids are not only allowed, but encouraged to shout and be noisy at the Crocker Art Museum.

“It’s a great family event,” said Joann Jaschke, 41, of Sacramento who brought her 4-year-old daughter, Lindsay Johnson, to the museum Tuesday. “The ball drop is pretty cool, and we get a little bit of culture.”

The mother-daughter duo were among 2,300 people who attended the second annual “Noon Year’s Eve: A Free Family Festival” at the museum. The four-hour event allowed families to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a safe and kid-friendly environment, complete with a ball drop 12 hours before midnight. The museum did not close until 5 p.m., so visitors could explore the art collection after the festivities.

Jaschke said she and her daughter had come to the event last year, and decided to stake out front row seats to the morning performances this time around. “Last year they had more choirs and this year it was more dancing,” she said. “The magic show is new, and they did different things with the folk arts.”

As the climactic moment approached, Father Time and a museum volunteer led the crowd packed in the lobby for the countdown, with members of the Placer Ume Taiko group beating drums for each number shouted out. When the ball – or, in this case, a flat sculpture of the Earth – dropped at noon, a cloud of soap bubbles could be seen floating outside the museum windows.

Away from the lobby, Sean Nevins, 39, of Philadelphia was helping his 6-year-old son Charlie make a hat out of strips of bright colored paper at one of the art stations for kids located near one of the museum’s galleries.

“Does that fit? Or is that too tight?” he asked as he wrapped the hat around Charlie’s head. “Ow, ow, ow, ow,” was the response, prompting the father to take the hat off to make adjustments.

The Nevins family, which included wife Kristin, 44, and daughter Libby, 10, were visiting Sean’s parents, who live in Elk Grove, for the holidays. The family had gone to the Noon Year’s Eve festival last year, and decided to make it a tradition.

“The kids wanted to come down here again – they love the art museum,” said Sean Nevins, adding that they were members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

But as Kristin Nevins noted, “We don’t have anything like this at the Philadelphia museum for families,” she said. “This is wonderful.”

The family went in search of the noisemaker art station after finishing the hat for Charlie, who decided to wear his creation.

“They had kazoos last year,” said Libby, as Charlie chimed in excitedly: “We blew them so hard that the tops came off!” This year, the noisemaker was a shaker rattle – two cups taped together with small trinkets inside.

In the ballroom of the older part of the museum, there were tables set up for kids to fold paper cranes, use stencils for drawing, make dough figures, or learn about the different animals in the Chinese zodiac.

Alvin Francisco, 31, of Elk Grove was holding his 18-month-old son Aidan in his arms while he watched his 7-year-old daughter Abigail sprinkle glitter on a paper plate ring to make an African necklace.“This is my first time,” he said of Noon Year’s Eve. “So far, so good, but it was really hard to find parking.”

He said he was a bit surprised to see so many people at the museum. “There are so many kids, so many families,” he said.

The heavy attendance prompted Nikki Cargill, 33, of Roseville and her two sons, Jeremy, 9 and Parker, 4, to take refuge in the art galleries on the third floor, where a few stray adults were looking at the paintings and sculptures. One young woman was observed sitting against a wall and taking out a sketchbook.

“We haven’t been here for a while,” said Cargill of the family’s visit to the museum. “We also wanted to check out the event (Noon Year’s Eve), but it’s pretty crowded.”

While Parker was wanting to go home, Jeremy was quietly scrutinizing several paintings in the California and American Art gallery, and taking photos of some of them on his cellphone.

“He’s getting ideas for his artwork,” said his mother.

Jeremy usually draws fantasy figures, like warriors and dragons, but Cargill said that he was intrigued by the techniques used by certain artists, such as Jerrold Ballaine, John Saccaro and Wayne Thiebaud. The family planned to drop by the various arts stations later to get ideas for crafts that they could do at home.

In the meantime, Cargill said that she was glad the family had a chance to check out the art collection at the museum. “We’ll definitely come back here again,” she said.