Brian Sugiyama, City of Nanaimo fitness instructor, and Nealy and Quintin Barr have all the right moves for dancing to Thriller and would be thrilled if lots of people attend New Year’ Eve celebrations at the Beban Park recreation complex on Dec. 31. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo can skate and dance its way into 2019

New Year’s Eve event at Beban Park flashes back to the ’80s

You can dance if you want to Dec. 31, but you don’t have to leave your friends behind at the City of Nanaimo parks and recreation Finale 2018 event.

The city is hosting a New Year’s Eve party at Beban Park recreation complex from 5-10 p.m. on Dec. 31 with an ’80s theme. There will be skating, swimming, food vendors and other entertainment activities and as it is a family-friendly event with two New Year’s countdowns, one at 8 p.m. and another at 10 p.m.

“We have the whole facility booked, as well as the pool and [Frank Crane Arena], so the event this year is a 1980s video dance party and rather than a number of entertainers, we have a live DJ and we’re going to have a video dance party going on all night,” said Tracy Stuart, city recreation coordinator. “On top of that, we have face painters, princesses, roving entertainment. We’re going to have a Pac-Man video game area. We’ve got strobe lights, a big movie screen with a whole bunch of ’80s [music] going on.”

There are also opportunities for attendees to get their exercise on that night, ringing in the new year after breaking a sweat. Frank Crane and the pool will be open, says Stuart.

“So we really cater to young families, that’s who we find coming for the most part in the last few years rather than the older families,” said Stuart. “There is a bouncy castle room. Generally people go for a skate first because that’s the chilly thing to do. Then they head over to the pool, they do a swim and then they come and partake in all the activities. You can interchange. You’ll get a wristband and then you can go everywhere.”

Complimentary neon-coloured mocktails will be given to toast and ring in the new year and prior to that there will be activities for children as well, according to Stuart.

“We’re hoping to re-live the ’80s and we have a bunch of activities in different rooms,” Stuart said. “We’re going to have a craft area and what have you, but we’re going to have a small station with … a retro Pac-Man. We’re going to try and do that. We have a photo booth out in the front lobby that is going to be a huge Pac-Man screen on the back. People will have ’80s props to have in front of the Pac-Man screen.”

Stuart said there will be prizes for the best ’80s costume with numerous themes.

“You have to wear your leopard (prints) and leg warmers and we’ll have prizes,” said Stuart.

Brian Sugiyama, city fitness instructor who was involved with the early years of the event, estimates the event began in the early 1990s and has evolved. Much like in Vancouver, Nanaimo had a First Night event, and he remembers there was a lot of snow and ice. There were concerts and stages at the parking lot of the college and it took a lot of work to clear all the snow and ice out.

“We had the event and had to, I think, probably pay some residuals to the name ‘First Night,’ which was an international thing and then from that, it grew into more an activity night in the [Beban complex] … they probably had dances still, in the social centre, so we were using the Centennial Building of all things for entertainment and we used the two arenas and the pool and it grew to the point where the city dedicated this whole complex and didn’t rent it out,” said Sugiyama.

Stuart said past themes have included pirates, Space Jam, masquerade, country barn dance, tropical, circus and under-the-sea and there are numerous ways to spend your time on the last day of 2018.

“Some people only do two out of three activities,” said Sugiyama. “They may swim or skate, but they could swim, skate and come to the entertainment and food fair and face painting and the whole bit.”

“Some people stay for both countdowns,” said Stuart. “Some young families just stay for that and there’s kind of an exodus and a new wave, but some people will stay for five hours of entertainment for that price.”

Entrance will cost $10 for individuals and $32 for families of five. Children two years old and younger get in for free.

For more on city parks and rec holiday activities, click here.

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