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Great expectations

By REFLECTOR STAFF • Updated Jan 1, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Norwalk celebrated the end of 2017 and made way for 2018 Sunday night.

About 400 people rang in the new year at Ernthausen Recreation Center’s Family First Night, where families and friends gathered to have fun for the year’s last few hours in an environment free of alcohol, drugs and any bad influences that are common during the holiday.

Wholesome family fun is something the center strives for and seeks to continue providing during the next 365 days, said Nikki Cross, recreation director.

Huron resident Kandy Briggs said that’s why her family has attended this New Year’s Eve event for the past several years.

“We love it and we come every year because it’s family first,” said Briggs, the mother of Rihana Briggs and Jazmine Johnson. “That’s how it should be. And they love it. (The kids) like the swimming a lot. That’s what they do first and then the bouncy houses and then the dance party is just the top of the cake.”

Her daughters and their cousins, Janna Milleson and Peyton Koch, won the event’s Minute-to-Win-It games challenge, taking home the family games bundle. All agreed it was “a lot of fun.”

For the Watson family, first-time attenders, the event was in line with its values and expectations. 

“We wanted our kids to have a really good, fun environment,” mother Amy Watson said. “We just love kids and we love this rec center. We moved here about four years ago and I just think it’s great that we live in a community that does something like this for the kids. … We’ve enjoyed everything. The events and the activities and everything there is to offer. It’s wonderful — especially for the price.” 

An entrance fee of $5 per person was charged.

For Jeff and Amy’s son Silas, 4, this was a big year.  

“This is his first year staying up for it,” Amy said. “Last year we actually made our own ball and dropped it at 9 o’clock before he went to bed and so this is a pretty big year for him. He’s had a blast.”

Their daughter Alice enjoyed making the noise makers used to celebrate the new year after the clock struck midnight, while Silas said his favorite part of the night was the “jumpy houses” and playing the life-sized Hungry, Hungry Hippos game. He was looking forward to seeing the New York Times Square grand ball drop.

“It’s really fun,” Silas said.

“I’m excited to see what God is going to do within Norwalk in 2018,” said Jeff Watson, who serves as pastor for Norwalk’s Foundation Church. “I think we’re going to start seeing a revival begin to take place within people’s hearts. People will be closer to God than ever before and we’ll really start to see the power of prayer revealed. I’m excited to see what it brings.”

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said the community looks forward to seeing the new fire station completed and some monetary issues fixed. 

“We’ve had some real budget issues in 2017,” he said. “It’s not bad but I don’t like running that kind of a deficit so I’m really looking forward to fixing some of those problems — living within our means and taking care of the city the way we should without some of the struggles we’ve had.”

Overall, Duncan said he views 2018 with optimism for the city. 

“If you look at the stock market, I think it’s optimistic,” he said. “I think some of the bigger cities have seen the recovery a lot quicker. The smaller cities and municipalities, I think it’s taking a little longer, but we’re seeing a steady growth in our businesses and some of our local businesses are expanding.

“We just got a new chamber director, (Kelly Lippus). Melissa (James) did a great job, but I think anytime someone’s in there that long, someone else is going to come in with fresh, new ideas. I can see the collaboration already and people are excited about it.

“Moving forward, I think we’re going to see some exciting things going on in the community,” Duncan added. “I think you’ll be able to see, from many different areas, just more people getting involved right now.”

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