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Kid Stuff New Year's Party Draws A Crowd
Close to cancellation for initial lack of numbers, the City of Riverbank's New Year's Eve party for children finished by drawing as many as last year.

Pajamarama, as the night of revelry at the Galaxy Theatre is called, had only 25 young people registered at the beginning of the week, but drew 41 by the day of the party.

Promised nightlong movies, food and games, children flooded into the theatre on Friday evening carrying sleeping bags, pillows and extra clothing.

But right after signing in the children to the care of City Recreation Department aides and hugging their kids goodnight, the parents left them and took off for their own version of a New Year's celebration.

"It's my son Joseph's birthday. He's 12," said father Ray Cruz. "We generally have a party for him at home. But he heard about this event at his school, Rio Altura, and got all excited about it. I've brought six kids. Four of them are mine. The wife and I will celebrate the New Year at home. We usually don't go out. Not on New Year's. There are too many drunks around."

Recreation staff member Juanita Argumedo led a group of recreation aides and volunteers that included Courtney McCall, Christina Castro, Janette Magallon, Cindy Copeland and her husband Scott Copeland.

Veteran sheriff's deputy Gary Vernon brought along one of his many children, 12-year-old Eli, who has been attending the event every year since he was seven.

Asked whether he and his wife were going out to celebrate that night, Vernon pointed to his left foot that was swathed in a blue medical boot.

"I broke my foot," he said. "I'll be staying home. No partying for me."

Eli Vernon, however, was full of enthusiasm at the thought of lots of movies, popcorn, donuts and cake.

"We get it all," he said. "What can go wrong when you have all that?"

While organizers were wondering where the remainder of the expected children were, Reina Negrete turned up with the missing youngsters in tow, all 11 of them, including three of her own. But unlike some of the other parents, Negrete was headed for a celebration.

"I have to leave right away," she said. "I'm hosting a party for adults at my home."

After a brief fling on the arcade games, that Argumedo said were free for them to play that night, the children sat on the lobby carpet to hear her warning speech on what would happen to them if they misbehaved - their parents would be called to take them home. Then they unpacked a box of 3-D spectacles and headed for the first movie they would see, titled "Tangled."

Later in the night, they would also get to watch "Gulliver's Travels" (also 3-D) and perhaps "Yogi Bear."

The youngsters ranged in age from five to 13. There were older children along last year "but it did not work out," said Argumedo.

The Pajamarama finally got under way about 9:30 p.m. The general public was still entering the theatre to watch its final shows for the night. But they would be gone by midnight and the children would have the full expanse of the building for their games. Among them, Hide and Seek was very popular.