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Thousands Expected To Attend First Night Raleigh Events

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RALEIGH, N.C. — If wild and wacky are on your wish list for New Year's Eve, downtown Raleigh is a good place to start.

More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the 12th annual First Night Raleigh celebration, which offers a day full of activities for the entire family.

"It's kind of like the State Fair of the arts. There's so much to pick and choose from," said Paul Siceloff, of First Night Raleigh.

More than 100 performances and events are scheduled at 35 different venues.

"In downtown churches, up and down Fayetteville Street Mall, in coffeehouses and some of the historic properties here," Siceloff said.

The fun started early.

Children's events

kicked off at 3 p.m. on the Bicentennial Plaza. Pint-sized partiers have plenty of activities to choose from.

The merry march, known as the People's Procession, started at 6 p.m. Spectators and participants got an eyeful of the outrageous and the outlandish.

The kids' acorn drop starts at 7 p.m. in front of the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center. That is an hour earlier than last year. Adults get their own countdown at the same location at midnight.

In the past, revelers have had to bundle up. This year, the buzz word might be umbrella. If the skies do open up, organizers said they will move the midnight celebration indoors.

"It's going to be very special. Even if the rain changes things around a bit, it'll add a bit of an edge," Siceloff said.

First Night buttons are required for admission. They are available at

several stores in the area

. Buttons cost $10 for adults and $7 for kids.

Buttons are also available at tents along Fayetteville Street Mall, outside the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center, at the Sleigh Rides south of the State Capitol Building, and in the First Presbyterian Church.

First Night is an alcohol-free party celebrated in about 100 other cities across the country, including Asheville.

In Charlotte, the midnight countdown happens downtown with musicand fireworks.

Fayetteville is restarting its celebration and expects hundreds of people at the city's historic downtown markethouse.

In Mount Olive, the resident pickle company of the same nameplans to drop a plastic seven-foot pickle into a barrel at 7 p.m.That hour is midnight Greenwich Mean Time.

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