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Cold no match for First Night Pittsburgh fun as city fetes 2014

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Jovan Donaldson ended 2013 lost in a labyrinth of ice.

The 4-year-old boy confidently led his family through the frozen maze Downtown until he took a wrong turn.

“Remember, you told us to turn left when we should have turned right,” said his mother, Gina Garcia, who moved the family to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles a few months ago.

Jovan, bundled in a puffy coat with a knit hat pulled nearly to his eyes, flashed a warm grin and nodded yes.

“We're so cold; we really don't know what to do with ourselves,” Garcia said. “We might try to find a fire to stand beside.”

Tens of thousands braved temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Tuesday night to celebrate the new year at Pittsburgh's First Night.

About 35,000 people traveled Downtown in 2012 for the celebration, said Darcy Kucenic, director of Highmark First Night at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. She expected more in 2013.

“Pittsburghers aren't afraid of a little cold,” she said.

Mason Lewis, 5, of Whitehall didn't mind the cold. Wearing a fiery orange coat and looking through blinking 2014 glasses, he watched fireworks early in the evening on top of his father's shoulders.

“They were crazy, like super speed,” Mason said.

The Enos family booked a hotel room Downtown, expecting the kids to party all night, said Matt Enos of Moon. His son, Oliver, 6, added to the boisterous street party with the blare of his plastic trumpet. Emma, 11, keeping warm under a tiger hat, danced with her sister, Hanna, 9, who wore a penguin hat. It was their first First Night.

It was the Brownlee family's first First Night as well. Brent, Autumn and daughter Iris, 2, recently moved to Mt. Lebanon from Seattle. They came to check out the early fireworks and the kids dance party, Brent Brownlee said, adding his daughter is quite the dancer.

“It's a great city for kids,” said Autumn Brownlee, who grew up north of Pittsburgh.

A long line formed at the entrance of the 40-foot-by-30-foot ice maze, built to mark the 20th anniversary of First Night. “I actually got lost twice,” Kucenic said. “And I've seen the map like 20 times.”

After First Night, the ice maze will move to the Four Seasons Lodge at Allegheny County's Boyce Park in Plum. The maze should open Saturday, said Kevin Evanto, a county spokesman.

Entry to the maze will be free. The county anticipates spending $12,000 on shipping and maintaining the maze, Evanto said.

First Night had plenty for adults, too. Amber Bash, 23, and Thomas O'Sullivan, 24, both of New Kensington, posed for photos together on ice thrones carved into the maze. The couple planned to ice skate and start 2014 with a kiss at midnight.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or

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