Harvard youngsters are first to ring in new year

HARVARD – With winter break approaching one week for Harvard schoolchildren, parents and their children got a chance Monday to get out of the house and ring in the new year with crafts, music and games.

At the fourth annual Harvard Kids’ New Year’s Bash at Crosby Elementary School, kids made beaded bracelets, had their faces painted and played 15 games. There also were performances by magician RC Ruggles and Katie Bendorf’s Music Studio.  

At noon, Harvard Mayor Jay Nolan did the countdown for kids who weren’t going to stay awake until midnight to celebrate the arrival of 2013.

“Kids have been home a week now, and they probably need to get some energy out,” event organizer Amy Stech said. “It’s a nice break for the parents to come and have a couple hours for kids to do kids’ stuff.”

Stech came up with the idea for a winter break event three years ago because she felt her children needed an activity over the holiday break.  

“I wanted something to do with them, and I couldn’t find anything to do besides ice skating,” said Stech, who has a 5- and 3-year-old. “And they weren’t big enough for that.”

About 100 children attended the first Kids’ Bash in 2009. The number has grown each year, and last year more than 400 youngsters attended, Stech said.

“A lot of people look forward to this,” she said. “It’s not just Harvard people. We’ve had people from Woodstock, McHenry, Marengo, all the way from Grayslake.”

The Lichtenauer family of Woodstock said daughter Lillian enjoyed making a new year’s noisemaker and was excited about the noon countdown.

“We thought she wouldn’t be able to stay up until midnight, so we saw this and thought it would be perfect,” said Gina Lichtenauer, Lillian’s mother. “It’s a really cool event.”

“There’s really nothing like this around McHenry County,” Erick Lichtenauer said. “It’s a great environment for kids and families.”

The Kids’ Bash, which took place from 10 a.m. to noon, gave children a chance to bowl, play a bag toss game, do gymnastics and play Wii Dancing, among other games.

Jesus Vazquez said his two children said they enjoyed the magician and balloon animals the most.

“Staying in the house so long, they get cabin fever,” Vazquez said. “My son’s feeling it right now. It’s nice to have all these events where the kids can get some energy out.”

Amanda Aleman works for the AmeriCorps of McHenry County and was volunteering at the Wii Dance station. She works with at-risk children in Harvard’s School District 50 and said the Kids’ Bash is much-needed.

“I’ve been working a lot in District 50 schooling,” Aleman said. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities for them to do events outside of school. It’s great to have this available to them to come together with their family and enjoy themselves.”

The Kids’ Bash was $1 for adults and children and free for children younger than 2. It was sponsored by the Harvard Events Committee and other local Harvard organizations.

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