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Celebrate New Year's with array of events

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Who says New Year's festivities have to mean champagne toasts and black-tie dress codes? This year, several celebrations in and around Gwinnett include events for children and adults alike. Instead of watching the ball drop on television this year, families can celebrate New Year's Eve together by attending a countdown close to home.

Lawrenceville rings again

Families will find activities for all ages beginning at 7 p.m. in historic downtown Lawrenceville, where the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association will play host to its second annual "Lawrenceville Rings" New Year's Eve celebration. The alcohol-free family event will offer music, entertainment, food and attractions until midnight.

Children's activities will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Lawrenceville Church of God on Grayson Highway. Attractions will include storytelling, a magician, mask making, face painting and puppetry. Meanwhile, festivities will get started downtown about 7 p.m. There will be live musical performances at numerous venues in and around the square from acts such as the Big Peach Swing Band, the motown group Splitz, the country rock Ryan Casper Band and the Andre Bennet jazz band. Multiple theater and dance groups will also perform, including Theater Gwinnett, the County Seat Players, Lionheart Theatre and Take A Bow Dance Studio.

Downtown, families will find wagon hay rides, giant slides and space walks, street performers, a rock climbing wall and a variety of food vendors, with everything from barbecue to Jamaican food and Polish sausages. Lawrenceville's outdoor ice skating rink will be open from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Crogan Street. Cost is $8 and includes skate rental.

A new addition to this year's celebration will be a laser light show projected onto the historic courthouse at midnight.

Parking will be available at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center and at the Lawrenceville Church of God. Free shuttles will be running from 6:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. from the GJAC and the church to the historic square. For more information, visit www.visitlawrenceville.com.

Ringing in the NOON Year

This year, even young children can enjoy the thrill of counting down to the 12th hour during the NOON Year's Eve celebration at Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth. The free event for children of all ages will give them the chance to "twist the day away" during a dance party hosted by Radio Disney. Radio Disney DJs and street team members will also organize dance contests and hand out prizes. The afternoon will culminate with a NOON balloon drop and cider toast.

All the fun will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the mall's center court behind the fountain. The event is free and open to everyone, but kids who are members of the Simon Kidgits Club will get a spin on the prize wheel. Children will also have the opportunity to join the club at the event. Annual membership is $5 per child.

For information, call 770-476-5160 or visit www.simonkidgitsclub.com.

An Atlanta tradition

For those who wish to venture downtown, Underground Atlanta is organizing numerous activities for children long before that famous peach drops at midnight. Family activities will take place between noon and 5 p.m. on Upper Alabama Street. Admission is free and open to all ages.

Attractions include a moonwalk, a giant swing and a tethered hot air balloon that ascends 350 feet. Clowns and face painters will entertain children throughout the afternoon. Sports fans will appreciate the Atlanta

Spirit Interactive Element, which includes the Atlanta Hawks "Pop a Shot" and the Atlanta Thrashers "Slap Shot" games. There will also be team merchandise giveaways and a football throw.

Families who stay for the 17th annual Peach Drop at midnight will have even more to look forward to while they wait. Musical performances begin at 6 p.m. with Seven Sharp Nine and continue throughout the evening with Alan Yates, Five Star Iris and Luna Halo. Headlining band Collective Soul will ring in the New Year with a performance from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Patrons are asked to take MARTA to attend the Peach Drop this year. The Five Points Station is located directly across from Underground Atlanta. For information, call 404-523-2311 or visit www.peachdrop.com.

For couples without children and those who can find a babysitter on New Year's Eve, numerous Gwinnett County venues will welcome the new year in style with parties, galas and gourmet dinners.

The Aurora Theatre's Third Annual New Year's Eve Cabaret and Casino Night

•What: A night of casino gambling and a Vegas-style cabaret show. Guests will enjoy hors d'oeuvres throughout the evening with a champagne toast at midnight. The person with the most chips at the end of the night wins a trip for two to Las Vegas.

•When: 8 p.m.

•Where: Hudgens Arts Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth

•Cost: $85 per person

•Info: Call 770-476-7926.

Grapes & Hops Restaurant's New Year's Eve

Five-Course Dinner

•What: A five-course gourmet meal and complimentary glass of champagne. Musical entertainment will be provided by David Nunnelley and Company.

•When: Seating at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

•Where: Grapes & Hops Restaurant, 4856 Hog Mountain Road in Flowery Branch

•Cost: $65 per person

•Info: Call 770-965-9145.

Lake Lanier Islands New Year's Eve Gala

•What: A champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception followed by a four-course gourmet dinner and dessert buffet. Live entertainment provided by Atlanta band Banks and Shane and a countdown to midnight featuring a champagne toast, party favors and balloon drop.

•When: 7:30 p.m.

•Where: The Emerald Pointe Resort, 7000 Holiday Road at Lake Lanier Islands

•Cost: $325 per couple

•Info: Call 770-945-8787 or visit www.lakelanierislands.com.

New Year's Eve Tennis

Round Robin Party

•What: Racquet Club of the South will play host to an evening of tennis and heavy hors d'oeuvres, with an open bar and champagne toast at midnight.

•When: 7 p.m.

•Where: Racquet Club of the South, 6200 Peachtree Corners Circle in Norcross

•Cost: $75 per person

•Info: Call 770-449-6060.

Wild Bill's New Year's Eve Bash

•What: Live entertainment will be provided by Bill Gentry and the 35 Cent Rodeo. Includes a free champagne toast, balloon drop and party favors for everyone.

•When: Doors open at 7 p.m.

•Where: Wild Bill's Atlanta, 2075 Market St. in Duluth

•Cost: $25 per person presale, $30 at the door. Reserved and VIP seating is also available.

•Info: Visit www.wildbillsatlanta.com or call TicketMaster for tickets at 678-473-1000.