3-2-1: Join in the Fun!

by Lori Beckham

Ring in the new year—a few hours early—at Julie K’s fourth annual Noon Year’s Celebration!

Singing, dancing, balloons and bubbles, Julie K’s Noon Year’s Celebration—a child-friendly version of New Year’s Eve—is bringing an hour of family fun to Five Points Washington on Tuesday, December 31st.

Once again, award-winning children’s performing artist Julie Walker, better known as Julie K, is preparing for one of her biggest events of the year, an idea conceived while contemplating what New Year’s traditionally symbolizes. “New Year’s is always for adults and always has the drinking and all kinds of things tied to it,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Why don’t we try to think of something positive for families to ring in the New Year together?’”

Countdown to Noon
As its name suggests, the celebration is a countdown to noon on New Year’s Eve. Kicking off at 11am, the celebration includes an hour-long concert for children and family, featuring hits from Julie K’s three albums. Popular tunes include “Animal Party,” “Bubble Pop” and “Mango Tango,” a song with “a little bit of Spanish.” Whether teaching children a new language, about animals or the importance of family, her music is so catchy that even the adults will sing along.

Walker describes the event as an ongoing performance with fun, unique elements thrown into the mix. “The whole theater is full of bubbles on the catwalk, and then we drop 1,500 balloons on the kids. We throw up at least 50 beach balls… We [also] have a giant projection screen behind me, so there’s video going on with lots of color and different movements… We’re constantly moving and something’s always changing. It’s very interactive and we have a really good time.”

Taking the Stage
Having performed since the age of five, Walker is full of life and energy when she steps onto the stage, though she says that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the vivacious singer suffered from severe stage fright for most of her life, despite her desire to step into the limelight. “Sometimes I would be physically sick,” she remembers. “But I made it through college, got my vocal performance degree, and just had really high hopes and dreams [of performing]… but I was too afraid.”

After marrying her husband, Donny, a Peoria firefighter, and the birth of her son, Weston, Walker started Music Together of Peoria, renting a “little space” down by the riverfront where she taught music and movement to children and families. Walker says the classes built up her confidence “because I was always singing in front of people… It was just kind of fun.” At the time, the only songs she had written were to her young son, but that changed after hearing a church sermon on the concept of the “bucket list.” “I literally left there and said, ‘I have to do a CD,’” she recalls. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Following Her Heart
Working with producer Brett James in Dunlap, her first album, A Sunny Day, was released in 2009, receiving national acclaim and winning such honors as the 2010 Parents’ Choice and 2010 Creative Child Preferred Choice awards. Her follow-up albums, Animal Party (2010) and Family Love (2012), received similar accolades for her upbeat musical talents. “I love to perform, and kids are so great because you can be super-animated,” she says. “The kids just love it [and] I love seeing them get so excited.”

Walker is involved with numerous programs dedicated to children, including the Junior League of Peoria, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in Oklahoma, the Saint Louis Art Fair, and the Tazewell Mental Health Association. She has also partnered with Children’s Hospital of Illinois to create a charity auction called “A Sunny Day,” held every February, featuring items like a “huge gumball machine, American Girl dolls, [and] bicycles,” and has raised more than $100,000 to date.

To make room for her busy schedule, Walker recently sold her Music Together business with the hopes of focusing more on her family, work with Children’s Hospital and musical career. “I felt like this is where my heart is—[creating music]—and I want to do more with that.”

Though she wasn’t sure how successful her first Noon Year’s Celebration would be, she was pleasantly surprised by the inaugural event’s outcome. “I was hoping we could sell 300 tickets,” she says. “[Then] we almost sold out the first year, and we sold out last year.”

With a similar turnout expected this New Year’s Eve, an advance ticket purchase is encouraged. Tickets will be available on November 1st at fivepointswashinton.org. To learn more, visit juliekmusic.com. a&s