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For young and old, satisfaction that First Night lives on

After close call for Hub’s long-running party, hundreds dive into New Year’s preparations

Sophia Gaines, 11, of Roxbury, taped a light in a flower she created for First Night.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Sophia Gaines, 11, of Roxbury, taped a light in a flower she created for First Night.

The preparations are underway. The ice sculptures are being carved. And across the city, locals young and old expressed satisfaction that come Tuesday, they could pin another button to their winter coat and attend a New Year’s Eve tradition, First Night Boston.

The future of that tradition had been in doubt after the nonprofit that for decades hosted the end-of-the-year afternoon and evening of arts, cultural events, and fireworks ceased operations in June.

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But with a boost from Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the backing of some big-name local sponsors, First Night, with many free events and some that require a $10 button, will be here to ring in 2014.

And that’s music to the ears of people who have come to enjoy the festivities — especially kids.

“I’m glad they made it come back because it’s just an exciting experience for everybody to have and enjoy,” said 9-year-old Annabelle Rie of Melrose, who will skate in a First Night performance on the Boston Common Frog Pond, as she has in the past few years.

“It’s a great way for the city to come together and celebrate New Year’s,” said her father, Marc Rie. “We’re actually very excited.”

In front of the New England Aquarium, with her 2-year-old daughter, Ayla in her arms, Watertown resident Rachel Theodorou admired sculptures of seals, done in partnership with First Night.

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She said was disappointed when she heard earlier this year that First Night Boston’s financial woes might end the almost 40-year tradition: “What’s a city to do without something exciting to bring everybody together on New Year’s Eve?”

Theodorou, 42, said she used to go to First Night Boston often when she was a teenager and in her 20s but stopped going so regularly once she had children.

But this year, despite the frigid forecast for Tuesday, she planned to bundle up her kids and head over to the celebration, which will begin in earnest at 1 p.m.

Across the city, in Roxbury, at Hawthorne Youth and Community Center on Sunday, 15-year-old Rayauna Moss-Cousin and her 7-year-old sister, Rayven Moss, were among the kids helping to design and build a massive floral float. A group from the center will march with it and other art objects youths have made in First Night’s Bank of America Grand Procession, the Mardi Gras-style parade that begins on Boylston Street at 5:30 p.m Tuesday.

Sam Sadd, the coordinator of the community center, said the float building has become a tradition for the center, with a new one, inspired by a different theme, built every year. This will be the 15th or 16th procession the group will march in, she said.

The event unites artists of all ages, families, and the people at the center with the whole First Night artistic community, she explained, adding, “it’s a chance for kids to express themselves.”

Ricardo, a 10-year-old from Roxbury, said he was looking forward to marching in the First Night procession, which would be his first.

“I like the decorating and I like the spirit” of it, he said.

First Night Boston, first celebrated in 1976, inspired other First Night events in cities across the country. Sponsors of this year’s event in Boston include the Highland Street Foundation, a handful of corporate partners, and media sponsors, including WBZ and The Boston Globe.

Even Bostonians who plan to sample only a few First Night Boston activities said they were glad the festivities were continuing.

Beacon Hill resident Katie Faraone, said she was “more of a First Night walker-througher,” but enjoyed the scene.

“It was a bummer it was going away,” she said as she walked her huge Great Dane, Zeus, and her small Boston terrier, Bolt, though the Common. “I’m glad it’s back.”

As for this year, Faraone said she would take her dogs on their final walk of the night around 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 to see the all the action.

Another dog walker, 69-year-old South End resident Sol Hartman, said “it’s a good thing” that First Night continues.

“She’s in favor of First Night too,” he said, giving a light tug on the leash of his pooch, Lola.

Outside the Prudential Center, Christopher Gorton said he has been going to First Night Boston on-and-off since the 1970s and has a collection of First Night buttons from over the years.

Standing near one of the ice sculptures as workers prepared the site, the 58-year-old South End resident said he was happy the tradition is living on.

And, at the end of the night, he and thousands of others can add another button to the collection: First Night Boston 2014.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.

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