Adults can eat, drink and be merry on New Year's Eve while their children bring in 1991 at all-night parties thrown by Salt Lake County.

But few year-end kiddie celebrations will be held at area preschools. Operators have opted against the bashes because some parents arrive in a state of inebriation to take their youngsters home."I would feel very uncomfortable facing parents with whom I deal on a daily basis and asking if they have been drinking. Worse than that, knowing that a parent has been drinking and refusing to release his child to him," said Barbara Meraz, director of the Learning Tree Daycare in Holladay. "Worse than that would be the conflict of having to call the police." In years past, the Learning Tree had all-night parties for kids to herald in the new year. It was constant entertainment, fun and food until 9 a.m. New Year's Day.

The problem came when parents, wanting to sleep in - and sleep off too much partying of their own - didn't pick up kids at the required deadline.

The Learning Tree discontinued the program and now recommends that parents who want to party have someone come to their homes to stay with the children.

For the safety of their staff and the children in their care, other preschools will not be open Monday. Others will close as early as noon - for liability reasons.

"It's a touchy thing for us to be asked to release a child to a parent who has been drinking," said Bob Devlin, owner of Devlin's Child Development Centers. "That's why we close early."

The ABC Preschool, 3424 S. 3600 West, West Valley, is one of the few that will tend children New Year's Eve. Children, ages 2 to 12, can be dropped off anytime Dec. 31 and will be entertained with videos and games until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The cost for five to 10 hours is $11.50 for children ages 3 and older; $12.50 for 2-year-olds; or $2.30 an hour per child.

New Year's Eve overnight bashes, complete with videos, games, midnight party, snacks and an early morning breakfast, will be held at three Salt Lake County facilities. They are open to children ages 4-12. The special child-care service, sponsored by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, begins at 6 p.m. Monday. Children must be picked up by 9 a.m. New Year's Day.

The public service, sponsors say, was initiated so parents can go out and party and not worry about their children.

"The safety of the children is our main concern," said Nance Hanson, Kiwanis-Felt Recreational Center. "No child is picked up until 9 a.m. If parents come earlier, the child will miss too much and wouldn't be happy about that."

What if a parent who's had too much to drink does arrive at one of the children's parties?

"We wouldn't release the child. We don't have that happen just on New Year's. That's a year-round problem that our staff deals with," said Rainey Miller, program coordinator, Redwood Recreational Center.


(Additional information)

New Year's Eve bashes for children

When: Monday, Dec. 31, 6 p.m. until Tuesday, Jan. 1, 9 a.m.

What to bring: Sleeping bag, pillow, pajamas.

Activities: Movies, games, food.


- Copperview Community Center, 8446 S. Harrison (340 West), Midvale. Cost: $20 for first child; $15 for each additional child. Contact Brad Pitcher, 561-0075.

- Kiwanis-Felt Recreation Center, 440 S. 900 East. Cost: $15 per child. Contact Hollis Robinson, 538-2026.

- Redwood Recreation Center, 3060 S. Redwood Road, West Valley. Cost: $15 per child. Contact Dixey Flint, 974-6923.

(Reservations are necessary for all centers.)