Peoria’s New Year’s Eve bash will still focus on community

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

A dazzling ball built by members of Better Built, the Union Construction Network, hangs above City Hall last year before being dropped after a countdown to the new year. The Peoria Civic Center is hosting a New Year’s Eve party again this year with two ball drops at 7 p.m. and at midnight. (Photo courtesy Peoria Civic Center)

Outdoor ice skating is out this year, but a New Year’s Eve bash complete with a New York-style ball drop is in.

After a three-year run, Peoria Civic Center officials decided not to open the Winterfest ice skating rink that had been set up on the corner of Fulton and Jefferson and focus efforts instead on a community New Year’s Eve party.

“The main reason was the extreme weather last year,” said Beau Sutherland, the Civic Center’s business development manager. “We had multiple days of subzero temperatures down to negative 10 degrees. It just made it increasingly hard for us to open up the rink.”

Weather had plagued the rink, which also featured a 100-foot long ice slide, since the first year it opened


“Rain is just as bad (for the rink) as five below temperatures or a foot of snow,” Sutherland said. “We’re not saying it’s done for good; we’ll look at it again in the future. But this year we decided to mainly focus our efforts on New Year’s Eve.”

Like last year’s inaugural event, this year’s family-friendly free party will center around the countdown to a dazzling ball drop, but the party is being expanded to include more activities for kids and families, Sutherland said.

The first half of the party will begin at 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31, with kid-centered fun that will culminate with the first of two ball drops at 7 p.m. Activities in the Great Hall and Exhibit Hall D will include face painting, Fun on the Run inflatables and mini-golf, Unique Twist balloon creations, superhero characters, demonstrations by the Peoria Fire Department and stage performances by Communication Junction and the Penguin Project.

The center has also partnered with Easterseals to provide two sensory-friendly areas.

“For families who have a child with sensory processing disorders or anyone who is sensitive to loud noises and large crowds, any public event can present a challenge,” said Megan Pedigo, marketing director for Easterseals of Central Illinois.

Fireworks over City Hall will once again cap off a free New Year’s Eve party for the community hosted by the Peoria Civic Center that will feature a New York-style ball drop. The Civic Center will have inside viewing areas this year in case the temperature dips below zero like it did last New Year’s Eve. (Photo courtesy Peoria Civic Center)

“We have partnered with the Peoria Civic Center on two areas that provide varying levels of comfort to children who need to take a break from the event activities,” she added. “The wireless lobby located just beyond the event space is an area where anyone can come to see some of the items that you would typically find in a sensory room and learn how they help children calm and focus themselves so they can better interact with the environment they are in. The other area will be in the Lexus Club room and will be reserved for children and families who need a full break from the event.”=

Easterseals is also encouraging people to submit their New Year’s resolutions either in written or video form at as part of its 100-year anniversary celebration.

“We are making a resolution to work towards a world that is 100 percent included, 100 percent empowered,” Pedigo said. “We wanted to create an opportunity for everyone to share their resolution with us and be a part of ours.”

At 6:30 p.m. Civic Center staff will hand out hats and noisemakers to all the kids in attendance, who will then line up for a Mardi Gras-style parade to the ball drop area next to City Hall on the Sonar Tide patio led by the Peoria Notre Dame High School Drumline.

Lit with hundreds of LED lights, the ball will drop at 7 p.m. from 200 feet, which is about 70 feet above City Hall.

“I was in New Orleans this last April and saw several of those NOLA-type parades that sprout up with weddings and different things down there, and I started thinking we could do something fun with that,” Sutherland said about the parade.

The later event will kick off at 9 p.m. with hosts from AMP Radio and the sale of concessions, including bar service. The Joe Stamm Band will perform from 9:45 to 11:45 p.m. in Exhibit Hall A. At midnight hats and noisemakers will be passed out and the countdown to 2019 will begin, culminating with the second ball drop. Fireworks over City Hall will punctuate the celebration.

“The big difference this year is we’re creating an atmosphere inside so we aren’t so weather-dependent,” Sutherland said. “We have the whole skylight glass atrium, so even if the weather’s terrible like it was last year, people will be able to watch the ball drop from inside if they want to.”

The Sonar Tide patio will be open for those who want to watch the drop ball from outside. Last year the temperature in Peoria dipped below zero at midnight.

“I don’t have an estimate of how many people came out last year, but I do know our Facebook live feed had over 25,000 viewers for both ball drops combined, Sutherland said. “We’re hoping people will have a better understanding of how cool it is this year and that they’ll want to see it in person.”

Party-goers at last year’s New Year’s Eve party hosted by the Peoria Civic Center got a closer look at the glittering 6-foot wide, 1,550-pound stainless steel ball that was created by members of Better Built, the Union Construction Network, after it dropped from high above City Hall. (Photo courtesy Peoria Civic Center)

The 6-foot wide, 1,550-pound stainless steel ball was created by members of Better Built, the Union Construction Network. The Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Sheet Metal Workers and Operating Engineers were also involved, while other trade unions contributed money and supplies.

“We moved the ball drop to the other side of City Hall this year to accommodate inside viewing should it be 10-below again,” Sutherland said. “Our partners with Better Build and the trades wanted to take it higher this year, so you’re going to be able to see it all around the downtown area, relative to the Civic Center.”

Last year the ball dropped from a height of about 120 feet. “The fireworks at the end just seem to cap it off. It gave me goosebumps last year. It’s pretty cool for Peoria,” Sutherland said.

For more information, visit the Peoria Civic Center’s Facebook page or website at

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