Tag Archives: parties

Clinton, Trump plan New York parties on Election Night

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could hardly be farther apart politically. But they’ll spend the decisive night of their polarizing presidential campaign barely a New York minute away from one another.

For the first time in recent memory, both major-party candidates are holding election night parties in midtown Manhattan.

Trump, the Republican New York native who embodies what people variously love, hate and love to hate about the nation’s biggest city, is headed to a power hotel that boasts of having hosted every president for more than half a century.

Clinton, the Democratic transplant who won over New Yorkers to start her political rise as their senator, will be at a sprawling convention center with a perhaps symbolic glass ceiling.

Smack in between is Times Square, where election-watching crowds have gathered for decades.

If the faceoff between the would-be first woman president and the billionaire businessman seeking the presidency as his first political job is an only-in-America story, its denouement stands to be an only-in-New York election night.

“It’s grand theater, it’s culturally contradictory and it’s completely par for the course” in a race that’s been an outsized spectacle featuring two New Yorkers, said David Birdsell, the public and international affairs dean at the City University of New York’s Baruch College.

On Thursday, workers were building a stage shaped like the United States, complete with outlying pillars for Alaska and Hawaii, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the block-sized venue where Clinton announced last week she’ll gather with supporters.

Its atrium has a glass ceiling, like the metaphorical one Clinton hopes to shatter by becoming the nation’s first female commander in chief. Her campaign website invites the public to sign up for information on tickets to the event.

Trump’s campaign revealed late Tuesday that it had chosen the New York Hilton Midtown, a few blocks from his Trump Tower home, for an invitation-only gathering.

The Hilton claims to have hosted every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, and its big ballrooms are go-tos for many of the city’s major business, social and political gatherings. Trump used one in July for a news conference introducing Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate.

New York City has been a crucible for political ambition and drama since the nation’s formative years, when it was one of the first capitals.

But this year’s presidential race is the first since 1944 to feature two major-party candidates from New York state. (Clinton lives outside the city, in Chappaqua.) While both are part of the city’s power structure, the campaign has highlighted the discontent of voters far from it and their anger at what they view as disconnected elites holding sway in Washington and on Wall Street.

It’s “ironic that they’re both going to be here election night,” said Aaron Barlow, a CUNY City College of Technology English professor who wrote a 2013 book about the country’s cultural divide. “The two candidates have both argued that they can represent the heart of the country, yet they both retreat at their most important moment to the city that a lot of the country sees as the heart of the enemy.”

The New York Police Department, working with the Secret Service, will deploy thousands of extra officers to secure the candidates’ venues. They’ll include plainclothes and heavily armed counterterrorism officers and uniformed officers assigned to crowd control, with an emphasis on watching for spontaneous protests and closing streets if necessary.

Some New Yorkers are taking their own steps to try to keep an emotional lid on the night.

Event planner Linnea Johansson said she became concerned as the campaign went through its bitter autumn “that people might start getting a little angry with each other.”

So she made sure the Brooklyn watch party she’s planning for a singles-oriented volunteering group will offer alternatives to talking politics, such as a team trivia contest. They’ll also have some opportunities to let off steam, like writing some thoughts on paper that will be tossed like confetti at the end of the night.

The party theme? “Leave Your Vote at the Door.”

Worldwide Pride: Celebrations around the globe

“Solidarity Through Pride” is the theme uniting the many LGBT Pride events — picnics and parades, protests and rallies — taking place in 2016 around the globe.

Some Pride dates around the world …

June

= June: Colombia Pride Diversa in Bogota; Budapest Pride in Hungary; Edinburgh Pride Scotia in Scotland; and Istanbul Pride.

= June 1-4: Tel Aviv Pride.

= June 4: Aarhus Pride in Denmark.

= June 3-12: Edmonton Pride in Canada.

= June 11: Athens Pride; Bali Pride in Indonesia.

= June 11-12: Blackpool Gay Pride in England.

= June 13: Roma Pride in Rome.

= June 13-19: Baltic Pride in Lithuania.

= June 17-26: Shanghai Pride.

= June 16-20: Sitges Pride in Spain.

= June 17-26: Oslo Pride.

= June 18-21: Korea Queer Festival and Parade in Seoul.

= June 18-25: Milano Pride in Italy.

= June 22-26: Gay Pride Dublin.

= June 23-28: Mexico City Pride.

= June 24-July 3: Toronto Pride.

= June 25: Paris Gay Pride March.

= June 25-26: London Pride.

= June 26: Bologna Pride in Italy.

= June 27-July 3: Helsinki Gay Pride in Finland.

= June 29-July 3, Madrid Pride Festival.

July

= July 1-3: Cologne Pride.

= July 2: Paris Pride.

= July 4-9: Luxembourg Pride.

= July 9-10: Munich Pride.

= July 13-17: Limerick Pride.

= July 15-17: CSD Frankfurt in Germany.

= July 16-23: Berlin Pride.

= July 25-31: Stockholm Pride in Sweden.

= July 29-Aug. 7: Belfast Gay Pride.

= July 30-Aug. 7: Hamburg Gay Pride.

= July 31: Vancouver Gay Pride.

August

= August: Cornwall, Cymru, Doncaster and Kent Prides in the United Kingdom.

= Aug. 2-7: Reykjavik Pride in Iceland.

= Aug. 5-7, EuroPride in Amsterdam.

= Aug. 8-14: Fierte Montreal Pride and Prague Pride in the Czech Republic.

= Aug. 10-14, Antwerp Pride in Belgium.

= Aug. 16-21: Copenhagen Pride.

= Aug. 17-24: Mykonos XLsior in Greece.

= Aug. 26-29: Manchester Pride.

= Aug. 26-Sept. 5: Pride Calgary.

September

= September: Quebec City Pride; Brisbane Pride; Leicester Pride and Lincoln Pride in England.

= Sept. 5-11: Benidorm Gay Pride in Spain.

= Sept. 26-Oct. 2: Curaçao Pride in the Caribbean.

October

= October: Johannesburg Pride.

= Oct. 10-18: Gran Canaria: Fetish Week in Spain.

= Oct. 27-31: Amsterdam Leather Pride.

= Oct. 29: Taiwan LGBT Pride in Taipei.

= Oct. 29-Nov. 3: Canberra Queer Festival in Australia.N

November

= November: Buenos Aires Gay Pride; Hong Kong Pride; Gay Pride Brazil in Rio de Janeiro; Tas Pride Festival in Tasmania, Australia.

= Nov. 14: Adelaide Pride March in Australia.

DECEMBER

= Dec. 6: Manila Metro Pride

 

Alan Cumming hosts UN LGBT gala

Scottish actor and activist Alan Cumming says he was pleased to host the first LGBT gala ever held at the United Nations, but he also finds it a bit silly that it’s taken so long.

“Well I think it’s sort of like a little chink in the armor of bigotry on a worldwide level because it is symbolic that this is happening in this institution and also kind of ridiculous at the same time that this is the first time anything like this has happened at the U.N.,” Cumming said.

The gala in mid-May, sponsored by Outright Action International, marked a turning point at the U.N., which only last August held the first Security Council meeting spotlighting violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

The gala honored Indonesian gay rights activist Yuli Rustinawati and her organization, Arus Pelangi, just as her government was considering a law that defines threats to national security so broadly that LGBT and human rights defenders could be considered criminals.

Hearing about the proposed law, Cumming scoffed: “I mean if the state needs to be threatened with the idea of equality then good. I hope those homosexuals do threaten the state. I mean if they threaten with equality, it’s not so bad.”

— AP

New Year’s Eve Guide

Congratulations, reader! You’ve made another lap around the sun, and 2016 is on the horizon. Now the only big decision left to make this year is where and how you’re going to celebrate.

In the spirit of the tradition that unites every NYE party, we’ve compiled a countdown of our own, listing some of our best NYE recommendations. So if you’re overwhelmed by all the possibilities, take a deep breath, count to 10, and then count back down to zero with our help.

And if your New Year’s plans include more than a Champagne toast, don’t drink and drive. Instead, take advantage of the free NYE bus service in Milwaukee and Madison, running all night. For more information, call 414-344-6711 or visit ridemcts.com in Milwaukee or 608-266-4466 and cityofmadison.com/metro in Madison.

10 Milwaukee adventures

42 Lounge

Milwaukee gaming bar 42 Lounge will set its annual NYE bash in the world of Bioshock, with a masquerade ball taking place in the game franchise’s underwater city Rapture. But you don’t have to be a fan of that particular series to enjoy yourself — any fandom is fair game to dance the night away to tracks spun by DJs Shepard, Tony-Wan Kenobi and Tiny Bubbles. 8 p.m. at 326 E. Mason St. $5. 42lounge.com. 

Best Place

It’s exactly what it sounds like: the Best Place Formal Pajama Party. Show up in your fanciest suit and tie or cocktail dress, and switch into comfy ‘jamas at midnight and keep on partying. This year, the party will be held in the Historic Pabst Brewery’s Great Hall, so it’s going to be an even more memorable shindig than usual. 8 p.m. at 901 W. Juneau Ave. $5. bestplacemilwaukee.com.

Company Brewing

Brand-new brewpub Company Brewing is hosting a NYE Blowout and packing the place with some of Milwaukee’s best musical groups, including seven-woman vocal group Ruth B8r Ginsburg, indie rock band Sat. Nite Duets, and The Fatty Acids Family Band, a local supergroup Frankensteined out of members of the aforementioned Acids as well as members of Ruth B8r Ginsburg, New Age Narcissism and Mortgage Freeman. Bonus: The bar’ll serve food late and even give away free beer from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. Doors open at 9 p.m. at 735 E. Center St. $10. companybrewing.com.

County Clare

County Clare dubs itself the most cozy and chill place to spend New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee, and it’s hard to argue. Between the secluded location, warm fireplaces, traditional Irish music by Ian Gould (who performs at 6 and 10 p.m.) and hearty menu options, you’ll have to make sure you aren’t so content you drift off. If you think that’s a risk, County Clare is also offering hotel packages starting at $190. At 1234 N. Astor St. No cover. countyclare-inn.com. 

Evolution MKE

If your favorite part of New Year’s Eve is watching that ball drop, Evolution MKE might be the place for you and your friends. The Ping-Pong bar still has tables available for its “NYE-volution” celebration, so if you can get at least nine friends on board, you can secure a reserved table, open bar and appetizer buffet for $50 each. 9 p.m. at 1023 N. Old World Third St. evolutionmke.com. 

Landmark Lanes

Bowl your way through the end of 2015 at Landmark, and not only can you stay later than usual, but you also get party favors, drink specials and a story to tell your jealous friends. At 2220 N. Farwell Ave. No cover. landmarklanes.com.

Mi.Key’s

Energy 106.9 sponsors this Cathedral Square party with Cousin Ed and DJ Ekin joined by DJ Bone White. The “Bombs, BBQ & Beers” joint will become a booze and beats, all-you-can-drink until 1 a.m. joint for this special night. 10 p.m. at 811 N. Jefferson St. $65. mikeysmilwaukee.com.

Nomad World Pub

This Brady Street hole-in-the-wall was the place where Milwaukee cover band 5 Card Studs first performed 20 years ago, and it’s where they’ll be celebrating two decades of Vegas-lounge-style entertainment. Besides an intimate show with a great band, Nomad will also have raffles and giveaways, along with the customary Champagne toast. 10 p.m. at 1401 E. Brady St. $30. nomadworldpub.com.

Safe House

No matter what time you show up at the Safe House, you’ll have a NYE countdown to join. The bar/restaurant will once again be holding its “Round the World” party, where the bar celebrates each successive midnight as the world spins Milwaukee closer and closer to 2016. This year’s event will be split, beginning early with a family-friendly gathering, before a “Shag-a-delic Dance Party” ($10 cover) begins at 8 p.m. The adult portion of the evening features open bar specials for short periods through the night. 11 a.m. at 779 N. Front St. safe-house.com.

Whiskey Bar

Whether or not you’re a whiskey aficionado, Whiskey Bar might just be the right spot for your New Year’s Eve celebration. Just remember to pick up your tickets early, so you get VIP access and a free coat check. 8 p.m. at 788 N. Jackson St. $25 advance, $35 at the door. whiskeybarmilwaukee.com.

9 Madison hotspots

Alchemy Cafe

Radio station WORT’s annual Nasty New Year’s Eve benefit returns to Alchemy Cafe this year, bringing supporters together to ring in the new year with the help of seven-piece funk band The Mustache. 11:30 p.m. at 1980 Atwood Ave. $10. alchemycafe.net.

Cardinal Bar

Salsa fans know Cardinal Bar is the place to stylishly kick up your heels. On New Year’s Eve, party with DJ Chamo Candela, who will bring his Venezuelan heritage and taste for Latin music to the dance floor from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. 418 E. Wilson St. $12. cardinalbar.com.

DLUX 

Gourmet burger joint DLUX celebrates in style on New Year’s Eve. An $85 admission provides access to a premium open bar starting at 9:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres at 11 p.m. and midnight champagne toast, all to the sounds of DJ Eugene’s Rocking Beats. The full kitchen stays open until midnight. 117 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
dluxmadison.com.

Essen Haus / Come Back In

Once again, adjoining bars Essen Haus and Come Back In join forces to produce a NYE party with double the food, double the bands and at least double the fun. The all-inclusive “extravaganza” will feature buffets that swap out food throughout the evening, from appetizers to dinner to second-dinner, as well as polka act The David Austin Band at Essen Haus and classic rock band Live at Nine at Come Back In. Festivities start at 6 p.m., while bands arrive at 9 p.m. At 514 E. Wilson St., Madison. Tickets are $70 before Dec. 23, $75 after. essen-haus.com.

The Frequency

This year’s NYE Bash at The Frequency is a little more devilish than usual — thanks to headliners Devil to Drag. The local alt-rock group, defining themselves as “glamour meets demon rock” will perform a set leading up to the big ball drop, with opening acts including garage soul band Cowboy Winter. 9 p.m. at 121 W. Main St., Madison. $10. madisonfrequency.com.

Gib’s

Gib’s is the ultimate Madison hole-in-the-wall: a classy cocktail bar concealed in a nondescript Willy Street home. This New Year’s Eve, though, they’re willing to shine bright with their Gold Party, featuring music, complementary Champagne punch and hors d’oeuvres, glitter bottle service and gourmet grilled cheese from Melted food cart. Cover is $15, or $10 if you’re wearing gold, and 30 percent of that goes to support nonprofit movement Dressember’s efforts to end human trafficking. 8 p.m. at 1380 Williamson St. gibs.bar. 

High Noon Saloon

It’s a night of cover bands at the High Noon Saloon, with local Madison acts taking on new monikers and covering the work of famous artists. For example: Funky alt-rock group The Earthlings will perform music by The Smashing Pumpkins as “The Smashing Pumpklings,” while musicians from Meghan Rose and the Bones, The Mascot Theory and Deuce Bag will perform the music of Wilco as “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Hotel.” Hors d’oeuvres and a midnight champagne toast included. At 8 p.m. at 701A E. Washington Ave. $10. high-noon.com.

Robinia Courtyard

This fall, coffee bar A-OK, wine bar Barolo, and Southern-style restaurant Julep quietly opened their doors in the new development known as Robinia Courtyard. But the triple threat won’t be staying quiet much longer. Their inaugural New Year’s Eve party will be spread among all three venues and the shared courtyard, with food from each of the restaurants’ menus, four different music options and gift bags that might include a lucky golden ticket. 8 p.m. at 829 E. Washington Ave., Madison. $65. 

Woof’s

This popular downtown gay bar plans to rock out 2015 with “Ascension,” a New Year’s Eve Black Party — think masks and dark house music. Go deep and dark with DJ John Murges all night long until the 5 a.m. breakfast buffet. 114 King St. No cover charge. madwoofs.com.

8 dance parties

Club Icon NYE Party

Kenosha’s premier gay bar and club will get extra festive for its annual New Year’s Eve party, stocking up with a buffet, door prizes and a champagne toast to cheer the departing year. General admission is $15, while a $55 VIP package adds an open bar until 12:30 a.m. At 6305 120th Ave., Kenosha. club-icon.com.

DECADANCE

Dance in the new year at the Majestic annual NYE celebration. The theater itself is a vaudeville house-turned-concert venue, and DJs Nick Nice and Mike Carlson will mirror that evolution by spinning 100 years of music from the 1920s through the 2010s. From Louis Armstrong to Daft Punk, the later the evening goes, the newer the music gets. 8 p.m. at 115 King St. $20. majesticmadison.com.

The Get Down

It’s the longest-running dance party in Milwaukee, so perhaps you’ve already attended this annual funk and soul celebration at Turner Hall Ballroom. If you haven’t, consider making this the year for this all-inclusive event, where real 45s will form the soundtrack to the last hours of 2015. For $60, you get the regular all-inclusive package, with an open bar, champagne toast and an ice bar/luge. VIP guests get to skip the line and grab food at an exclusive buffet on the VIP balcony, for $85. 9 p.m. at 1040 N. Fourth St.
pabsttheater.org.

Iron Horse’s Sweet NYE 2016

If you’re looking for a more stylish dance party, look no further than The Iron Horse Hotel. The venue’s “Sweet NYE 2016” bash will open the hotel’s doors to any and everybody, with DJ Fred X presiding over the evening and hotel packages available if you want to make a weekend out of your celebrations. 7 p.m. at 500 W. Florida St., Milwaukee. No cover. theironhorsehotel.com.

Jazzin’ Up The Joint

Don’t be fooled by the title of this party at Capitol City hotspot Madison’s. Every track’ll originate from a lot closer in time to 2020 than 1920, even if the dance party, hosted by DJ Brook, is a little more sophisticated than usual. 9 p.m. at 119 King St., Madison. $20. 

NYE Retro Dance Party

Lots of these NYE dance parties will be spinning the best tunes of the year, but if you want the best tunes of yesteryear, there’s no place like Mad Planet. Its weekly Friday night dance parties are just practice for this year-ending bash. 9 p.m. at 533 E. Center St. $15 cover. madplanet.net

Oak NYE 2016

Oak Lounge prides itself on offering a big-city nightclub experience, and it’s that sort of aesthetic that can make NYE great. The club’s year-end festivities will be curated by Chicago DJ Willy Joy. 8 p.m. at 231 E. Buffalo St., Milwaukee. $25.
oakmilwaukee.com

Plan B

It’s considered Madison’s hottest dance club, and New Year’s Eve is the time for Plan B to prove it. Hours of dancing at this Willy Street bar will be topped off by a late-night buffet, though you’ll have to pull yourself off the floor to find it. At 924 Williamson St., Madison. Cover TBA.
planbmadison.com.

7 arts events

‘Ball Drop Blitz 2’

On Dec. 30, actors, directors and writers from Madison theatre troupes Mercury Players, OUT!Cast Productions and KnowBetter Productions will pick each others’ names out of a hat. As teams, they have the next 24 hours to create the last theatrical mayhem and magic of 2015. Catch it at 8 p.m. at the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St. $20. bartelltheatre.org.

‘A Blast from the Brass’

Sunset Playhouse is best known for its stage productions, but for New Year’s Eve, it’s going for something a bit more orchestral. BtW, an 11-piece show band, will perform music by revolutionary artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s like Chicago, Van Morrison and Blood, Sweat & Tears, with a particular emphasis on the force of their brass and percussion sections. A raffle and champagne toast will follow the show. 9 p.m. at 800 Elm Grove Rd, Elm Grove. $45.
sunsetplayhouse.com.

ComedySportz

All-you-can-drink Champagne and all-you-can-eat hors d’oeurves are just a trick to get you in the door of ComedySportz for New Year’s Eve. After that, you’re trapped — enjoying some of the company’s best improv comics as they say goodbye to 2015 with whatever they can think of off the top of their heads. Luckily, that’s their speciality. Two consecutive shows, at 8 and 10:30 p.m., will conclude with a NYE countdown; after the real one, ComedySportz’s bar will stay open until you’re ready to face 2016 and head home. At 420 S. First St., Milwaukee. $35, reservations recommended.
comedysportzmilwaukee.com.

‘A Funny Thing Happened on
the Way to the Forum’

True, a Roman New Year’s Eve would have been March 31, but Dale Gutzman and Off the Wall Theatre won’t make you wait three months to see their final production of Sondheim’s Forum. This rousing musical sendup of ancient Roman farces is a particularly good way to send off 2015, but get your tickets fast — space in this jewelbox theater always goes fast. 7:30 p.m. at 127 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. $45. offthewalltheatre.com.

Milwaukee Comedy Cafe

Wisconsin native Shane Mauss is home for the holidays, and celebrating a successful year that included the release of his new comedy album, My Big Break. He’ll be doing so in a new location, though, as this year also marked the Milwaukee Comedy Cafe’s migration to a second-floor loft space at 1033 N. Old World Third Street, Milwaukee. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $15, $20 for preferred seating; 10:15 p.m. seats are $20, $25 preferred, and come with a Champagne toast. milwaukeescomedycafe.com.

‘Ring in the New’

After a year filled with rock ’n’ roll from the ‘50s and ‘70s and classic works of theater including The Wizard of Oz and West Side Story, the Fireside Theater is taking everything and throwing it into a blender for the 2016 edition of their Ring in the New revue. An original production, the show mixes songs old and new along with a few New Year’s surprises to keep frequent visitors guessing. The company will perform both a matinee at noon and an evening show at 6 p.m., which is followed by a New Year’s Eve party. At 1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson. firesidetheatre.com.

Splash Studio’s Silver and Gold NYE

Looking for more creative New Year’s Eve options? Consider dropping into Splash, the Milwaukee painting bar, for an evening in which you’ll recreate “Titanium,” one of the bar’s signature paintings. This tissue paper and gold and silver paint-constructed work won’t be the only thing that glitters — visitors can also look forward to gold-rimmed cocktails, party favors, a dessert bar, and a balloon drop at the end of the night. At 184 N. Broadway. $65 admission.
splashmilwaukee.com.

6 sparkling wines

Classic Champagne

Toast the New Year in regal style with Pol Roger Brut Reserve “White Foil” Champagne ($54), a favorite of Winston Churchill and England’s current royal family. The wine pours a pale gold with delicate bubbles and light, toasty aroma, delivering a creamy palate with complex fruit and a harmonious finish.

Italian innovation

Italy weighs in with Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Franciacorta DOCG ($41), an impressive new entry wrapped in amber cellophane said to block UV rays from prematurely aging the wine. The exuberant golden wine offers a nose of apple, pear and honey, leading to a brightly balanced palate that finishes with a touch of almond on the tongue.

German bubbly

A delicate palate and fine sparkle pour from the bottle of Henkell Blanc de Blancs ($13), Germany’s favorite effervescent wine. Balanced and boasting a vibrant bouquet, the wine pours golden with a greenish cast, offering fragrant fruit on both the nose and palate.

Spanish value

Spain is the source of some fine, inexpensive sparkling wines, and Mas fi Cava Brut NV ($10) is one of its best. Made in almost equal parts from native xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada grape varieties, the wine boasts a light effervescence and a floral-citrus nose, delivering flavors of stone fruits and a creamy texture to your palate.

California chardonnay

Chardonnay makes up the lion’s share of Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs ($15), another “white of whites” from California’s Sonoma Valley. The dry, full-bodied sparkler offers a memorable collection of tastes, textures and aromas that ultimately satisfy.

Korbel variation

Korbel may make Wisconsin’s favorite brandy, but the Sonoma County winery also creates one of the country’s favorite domestic sparkling wines: Korbel Natural ($17). Produced in a “fruit-forward” style from a blend of Russian River Valley pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, Natural offers a refined collision of apple, citrus and raspberry aromas and flavors designed to put the sparkle into every holiday gathering.

5 family ideas

Harlem Globetrotters

The Harlem Globetrotters are currently celebrating their 90th anniversary, so what better time to catch their traditional NYE appearance at the BMO Harris Bradley Center? In what must truly be seen to be believed, these basketball acrobats will show off their one-of-a-kind skills on the court. 1 and 6 p.m. at 1001 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. $21 to $137.
bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.

Ice Skating at Red Arrow Park

As long as El Niño doesn’t keep temperatures from dipping below freezing, a trip to this ice skating rink is the perfect New Year’s Eve outing for families. And, on Dec. 31, the rink is open extra late, meaning if you’d rather spend midnight circling the ice, you can do so up until 1 a.m. At 920 N. Water St., Milwaukee. Skate rentals are $8 for adults, $7 for kids 17 and under. county.milwaukee.gov.

Madison Children’s Museum Dance Party

Teach your kids how to rule a rave early at the MCM’s New Year’s Eve Dance Party. They may not be able to stay up until midnight yet, but they’ll certainly enjoy the glow bracelets, sparkling juice and confetti-filled dance floor at this event. 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 100 N. Hamilton St. $8 admission.
madisonchildrensmuseum.org.

Mitchell Park Domes

The weather outside is probably going to be frightful, but in the Domes, it’s always delightful. This annual fundraiser for the Mitchell Park Conservatory is bigger than ever, with a DJ dance party in the Conservatory annex joining live music by the Garlic Mustard Pickers, a magician, arts and crafts for kids and a stylish light show to close out the evening. 6 to 9 p.m. at 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee. $15 admission, $5 for kids 3 to 17.
milwaukeedomes.org.

Noon Year’s Eve

When the clock strikes 12, it’s the new year, right? That’s what you should tell the kids when you drop in for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum’s daytime NYE bash. Families can celebrate by making party hats and other festive goodies, and count down to the big ball drop and juice toast at 12 sharp. 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 929 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. $8 admission. bbcmkids.org.

4 fancy shindigs

Blu Milwaukee

If you’d rather feel like a king or queen overseeing your domain on New Year’s Eve, the only place to be is Blu, the Pfister Hotel’s 23rd-floor lounge. Its “Window to the World” party will offer Champagne, desserts and cheeses and a performance by Janet O’Mahony. 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Packages are $300 to $500. blumilwaukee.com.

The Edgewater Hotel Gravity Ball

Funkmasters Bumpus and dance band The Hot Sauce Committee help revelers ring in the New Year at Madison’s dramatically renovated lakeside hotel with multiple levels and environments. $95 buys you access to two party locations, three drink tickets, appetizers, party favors and a Champagne toast at midnight. 9 p.m. at 1001 Wisconsin Place. theedgewater.com.

Ivory Room Midnight Masquerade

If your ideal NYE comes with a dose of ivory tickling, grab a mask and head over to the Ivory Room. $90 gets you in for an open bar and the dueling piano show you love, performed by Josh Dupont and Peter Hernet. If you’ve got the best mask, you might even pick up a $200 Noble Chef gift card. 8 p.m. at 116 W. Mifflin St., Madison. ivoryroompianobar.com.

Milwaukee Athletic Club’s Brew Year’s Eve

It’s hard to find a NYE experience that offers more than Brew Year’s Eve: five hours of open bar, complementary appetizers and champagne, two floors of music from indie classical band I’m Not A Pilot and DJs Mighty Thor and Tyler Curran, lots of dance space, entry to afterparties at Oak Lounge and Dick’s, and even free shuttles from Bay View and Wauwatosa and hotel discounts. You’ll pay for the privilege — $99 individually, or $179 for couples — but if bar hopping isn’t in your game plan, this price might be right. At the Milwaukee Athletic Club, 758 N. Broadway. brewyearsevemke.com.

3 delicious dinners

Graze and L’Etoile

Side-by-side restaurants L’Etoile and Graze will both offer prix fixe dinners under the direction of James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Tory Miller. L’Etoile (French for “The Star”) is serving a five-course dinner for $110 with course-by-course wine pairings for an additional $65. The more casual Graze has a three-course dinner priced at $65 with an additional $25 for wine pairings with each course. 1 S. Pinckney St., Madison. letoile-restaurant.com and
grazemadison.com.

The Icon

Look for a special New Year’s Eve menu and cocktails at The Icon Restaurant and Tapas Bar. Executive chef Omar Falcon will take the Spanish tapas menu in new directions on Dec. 31, along with bright Champagne cocktails, live entertainment and a free taste of the bubbly at midnight. 206 State St., Madison.
theiconmadison.com.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Dinner in the heart of MAM’s winged Calatrava expansion? It’s a no-brainer. MAM will be saying farewell to 2015 with a three-course dinner prepared by new executive chef Jason Gorman, followed by the dance-friendly melodies and rhythms of local big band Swing Nouveau. Plates are $195 per person, $175 for museum members. 700 N. Art Museum Dr. mam.org.

2 comedians

Brooks Whelan

Brooks Whelan was one of the many cast members hired-then-fired from Saturday Night Live during its tumultuous 2013–14 season, but the show’s loss is your gain. He used the material and experiences gained in that year as fodder for his debut comedy album, This is Cool, Right? — recorded right here at Madison’s Comedy Club on State. He’ll return there for three sets New Year’s Eve, and it will, in fact, be cool. 5:30, 8 and 10:30 p.m. at 202 State St. Tickets are $20, $30 and $40, respectively.
madisoncomedy.com. 

Jim Gaffigan

If you’re still trying to figure out where to go this New Year’s Eve, consider going where Jim Gaffigan always goes — the Pabst Theater. Gaffigan has been performing a de facto NYE residency in Milwaukee for almost a decade, and you don’t go the same place year after year unless it’s a really good gig. Gaffigan’s NYE show is at 10:30 p.m. at 144 E. Wells St.; two other shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30. Tickets are $85 or $55, with VIP packages $150. pabsttheater.org. 

1 chilly resolution for 2016

Plunging for a good cause

We know you’re going to break your actual resolution by Jan. 12, so funnel all that positive thinking into something more altruistic — like jumping into really cold water. Polar bear plunges have become a New Year’s Day tradition across the country, a way to start the new year fresh with a slap of cold water right to the face.

But this year, consider a plunge that doubles as a fundraiser for a charitable cause. In Milwaukee, your best bet is the Polar Bear Dash, a 5k run starting in Grant Park in South Milwaukee and heading to a dip in Lake Michigan. The Dash supports the Wisconsin chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Registration is $30 online through Dec. 29 and $35 on race day.
polarbeardash.com.

Already have New Year’s Day brunch plans or are worried about that hangover? Then at least make Jan. 1 the day you start raising funds for a different plunge. A statewide Polar Plunge campaign supporting Special Olympics Wisconsin will host frigid jumps in 14 locations this year, from Jan. 30 to March 5, which means there’s at least one in your neck of the woods. Planned jumps include Green Bay, Jan. 30; Kenosha, Feb. 6; Madison, Feb. 13; Milwaukee, Feb. 20; Wausau, Feb. 27; and LaCrosse, March 5. polarplungewi.org.

Pleasing persnickety partiers? There’s an app for that

With all of today’s food allergies, dietary restrictions and persnickety palates, how do you successfully plan a New Year’s Eve menu that will satisfy all your guests? Don’t worry — there are apps for that.

Appetizers pitched as small plates have become de rigueur for an increasing number of restaurants, with Spanish tapas leading the way. As food becomes richer, more interesting and more flavorful, quantity gives way to quality. The smaller the portions, the reasoning goes, the more selections your party guests can sample. The more they eat and enjoy from your offerings, the more memorable your affair will be in the minds — and on the palates — of friends and family.

But if you’re going to rely on appetizers to tell your culinary story, make sure you offer a tasty tale that lives up to audience expectations. Piles of chicken nachos and barrels of chips and dip are fine for football playoffs, but your holiday season affairs require more finesse. Your choice and high quality preparation of appealing appetizers will guarantee your status as the host or hostess with the most or most-est.

Here are some recipes to help you in planning your Dec. 31 soirée. All go well with Champagne. But, then, doesn’t everything?

Seafood Phyllo Triangles

4-6 oz. cooked shrimp or crabmeat

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 tbsp. scallions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 dash each of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces

8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

Melted salted butter

Combine shrimp or crabmeat, cheese, scallions, garlic, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces in a bowl and mix. Adjust seasonings as needed for a strongly flavored mix.

Place a sheet of phyllo dough horizontally on a work surface, brush lightly with butter. Layer another sheet on top and repeat.

Cut dough into 6 strips and place 1-2 heaping teaspoons of cheese mixture on each strip. Flag-fold each strip into a triangular shape around the mixture and lightly butter the tops of the triangles. Create similar packets from the remaining phyllo dough and mixture until ingredients are used up.

Place the triangles into the oven at 400 degree and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen triangles.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites

9 oz. chicken, ground

¼ cup ham, cooked and diced

1 egg

Blend well the chicken, ham and egg in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add bread crumbs until mixture becomes less sticky and can be formed into balls.

Wrap chicken mixture around cheese cubes, creating 2-inch balls. Deep-fry the balls in cooking oil for about 4 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake the balls thoroughly until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Cool and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Vegan Hemp Seed Tabouli

1 cup fresh parsley

½ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ tsp. sea salt

4 medium or 3 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cup hemp seeds, shelled

2 tbsps. hemp oil (or olive oil)

2 tbsps. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Chop parsley, mint and sea salt until mixed and minced, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add tomatoes, hemp seed, hemp oil and lemon juice, mix thoroughly and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

7 eggs

2 large avocados

½ red onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 tomato, chopped

Boil eggs as you normally would until cooked, then let sit for about 20 minutes. Remove eggs to an ice bath and let stand for 5 minutes.

Remove shells from eggs, slice in half lengthwise and discard all but 1 yolk. Mash avocados and other ingredients together except for paprika and 1 egg yolk except for paprika and stir.

Spoon avocado mixture onto egg where the yolk has been and sprinkle with paprika. Serves 14.

Need a stocking stuffer? Try a bottle of wine

Few gifts are more perfectly crafted to be holiday stocking-stuffers than bottles of wine. Whether red or white, a good wine that’s a well-considered match for its recipient makes the perfect gift. Here are few wines that will bring a smile to the face of your favorite oenophile.

Riesling fans will take a shine to Biohof Pratsch 2014 Grüner Veltlinger ($13), made from what may be considered the famous German wine grape’s Austrian equivalent. The wine pours light yellow with greenish hues, delivering a blend of tangy fruits and refined spices for refreshed, satisfied palate.

Two wines from Oregon’s King Estates “Backbone” series are worthy of note. The 2014 Backbone Pinot Gris ($26) arrives with a bright melon-citrus nose followed by flavors of lime, pineapple and honey with just a touch of minerality for character.

The Backbone Pinot Noir ($53) offers even more to like. The nose of black cherries, currants, mushroom and even cigar box give way to rich flavors of plum, dark chocolate, strawberries and the ubiquitous “forest floor” about which some wines like to brag. This is a fine example of all of the above.

November is Beaujolais season, and the 2012 Stephane Aviron Morgon Cote du Py ($23) lifts the French region’s wines well above the “nouveau” stage. The 100 percent Gamay wine is vibrant and ripe, with fine depth and an approachable flavor of fruit and terroir that helps it stand beside any other Burgundy.

Similar in approach, but significantly more accomplished, is the 2011 Hecht & Bannier Bandol ($40). The primarily mouvèdre (80 percent) blend offers flavors of ripe black fruits, black pepper and leather and earth nuances that ride on a medium-weight palate to a savory finish.

Follow the “earthy” character of wine further down the trail with the 2011 Castelo Monaci Artas Primitivo Salento IGT ($42). Produced from 100 percent primitivo grapes — a forerunner and cousin to zinfandel — the ruby red wine arrives with a blend of wild berries, herbs, walnuts and hint of toasted coffee beans for a rich, complex finish.

What’s in, what’s out and what’s offensive this Halloween

Halloween used to be for children, but adults’ interest in continuing the fun of their youth has turned the holiday into a huge event — and moneymaker. Grownups also have turned the  outré holiday into one that strains the limits of acceptable taste and behavior, and each year ups the ante.

Estimates of what consumers spent last Halloween are as high as $11.4 billion, when you combine the costs of costumes, decorations and candy, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Helping to push the popularity of Halloween are the pop-up stores that arrive everywhere out of nowhere each fall, just before the leaves start to turn. They take over high-profile but abandoned retail spaces like demons invading bodies on the CW series Supernatural.

Operated by companies such as Halloween Express and Spirit Halloween, they give what once was the eve of All Saints Day a boost in visibility. They also provide tempting opportunities to find something clever to wear for busy adults who don’t have the time or talent to make their own costumes.

Spirit Halloween, a chain of more than 1,150 pop-up shops across the country, typifies the strategy and has honed it to a science. The company crams an impressive amount of business into a short amount of time. The staff swells from the hundreds to more than 20,000 starting in June and the company makes its revenue for the year in less than three months. The typical store takes six days to set up, opening Aug. 21 and closing Nov. 1.

“We are equivalent to an army operation in terms of the way we mobilize and move products,” says Steven Silverstein, CEO of the New Jersey-based company.

Although pop-up stores have been around for decades, they exploded when retailers got the idea of short-term rentals for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Spirit Halloween was launched in 1983, as the holiday’s focus was evolving from children and trick-or-treating to parties for people of all ages, Silverstein says.

Planning for this Halloween began over a year ago. For example, it takes 18 months to design and produce elaborately spooky in-store displays.

Employees scout for locations throughout the year. Merchandise starts rolling into Spirit Halloween’s warehouses in May. By summer, sites have been chosen and, by mid-August, the stores are prepped to receive the goods. Trucks start arriving and the locations go from bare walls and floors to racks and shelves bursting with costumes, accessories, props and home decor.

What’s in?

On a recent gray Sunday afternoon, a clerk at Party City in Brown Deer said girls this year still are asking for costumes based on the 2013 animated film Frozen, demonstrating the deep cultural impact of the movie’s female empowerment story. 

Girls also are expected to choose a lot of costumes based on the Disney TV movie The Descendants, the story of the children of Disney characters such as Cruella De Vil and Cinderella.

For boys, another holdover is expected to dominate — in their case the reptilian superheroes of the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Expect to see a lot of Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael.

Children love the Turtles, and so do adults who watched them on TV and in movies when they were kids, Silverstein says.

Adult costumes and accessories based on TV shows like The Walking Dead and Orange Is the New Black are expected to sell well. Costumes based on superheroes like The Avengers or Batman will be brisk sellers.

From the political arena, there will be lots of Donald Trumps, Taylor Swifts and even costumes based on anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. In Wisconsin, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a scattering of Scott Walkers slithering about (to download your own Walker mask click here). 

As usual, corsets and skimpy outfits for women are likely to attract a lot of partygoers. Risqué costumes for women are always big Halloween sellers.

For adults with gorier tastes, Halloween fare this year includes bloodied zombies and ghouls and characters from slasher movie classics like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th — proving that when it comes to Halloween, some things never die.

Halloween culture wars

Taken as a group, the most popular costumes donned each year provide something of a cultural snapshot of that moment in time. The most revealing tend to be the politically incorrect.

Given that, every Halloween sparks national arguments over cstumes that reflect current events in ways that are widely considered tasteless.

In the early 1980s, drag queens dressed as Joan Crawford — holding baby dolls and coat hangers — were ubiquitous at gay Halloween parades. That was a cultural response to Christina Crawford’s tell-all memoir and the subsequent movie Mommy Dearest, which chronicled the movie icon’s allegedly brutal maternal skills. 

As critics pointed out at the time, child abuse is not a laughing matter. But that didn’t dampen the Halloween merriment that the book and movie unleashed.

Every Halloween brings a new incarnation of the Halloween culture wars. They heated up early this year. In August, petitions and social media outrage were already flying over a blood-spattered dentist’s smock paired with a Cecil-like lion head and over a replica of Caitlyn Jenner’s cream-colored corset set she wore on the cover of Vanity Fair.

“Trans is not a costume. Even though Caitlyn is a public figure and I could understand someone wanting to celebrate her as a hero and as a public figure, this could definitely take on a transphobic vibe,” said Addison Rose Vincent, an activist who started a Change.org petition asking Spirit Halloween to stop selling the costume, in an interview with Philly Voice.

“We create a wide range of costumes that are often based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes,” Lisa Barr, a spokeswoman for Spirit Halloween, responded in a statement. “Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and our Caitlyn-inspired costume reflects just that.”

Is a Halloween costume that can be interpreted as ridiculing transgender people or one that laughs at the illegal butchering of the globally loved lion Cecil any different from Julianne Hough’s wearing of blackface or Prince Harry’s turn as a non-Halloween Nazi?

Richard Lachmann, a professor at the University of Albany who includes Halloween in his sociology of culture course, said costumes seem to be more provocative every year, with equally amped-up backlash. And there’s always a base of people who feel it’s an “irreligious pagan holiday to begin with and are ready to be upset,” he said.

Throw in a heavy dose of gore, loaded parody and ultra-sexy costumes, Lachmann added, and Halloween is now a free-for-all debate on what crosses the line of decency.

But is there a line at all?

“It seems like there isn’t,” he said. “The point for adults is to be provocative, to do something that breaks the lines of what’s considered acceptable.”

Still, one costume was yanked from the shelves of a Party City store in Waukesha for hitting too close to home.

That costume is based on the horror character Slender Man. In May, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend  19 times in a delusional attempt to curry favor with the fictional fiend.

When locals spotted the costume in a store just miles from where the girl was stabbed, they protested to the company, which agreed to remove the “Slenderman Partysuit” from local shelves.

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to family and friends of the victim and the entire local community,” store reps said in a statement to NBC 5 Chicago. “The local area stores have pulled the costume in question. Party City sells merchandise and costumes for all types of Halloween customers, and nothing we carry is meant to be offensive.”

The manager of a local Halloween Express also opted to pull the costume from his store, although it’s still available online at both companies’ websites, as well as Spirit Halloween’s website.

To download your Scott Walker mask, click here.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story

When ‘woof’ means ‘I do’

When Barb and Frank Prevort of Menomonee Falls decided to breed their German shepherds, their 5-year-old granddaughter objected.

“You can’t have babies unless you’re married,” the girl said. So her grandparents staged a wedding for the two pooches in their backyard.

About 30 human friends attended the nuptials, which were performed by a family friend. The Prevorts’ other dog — a white collie — stood up for bride and groom. The Prevorts’ granddaughter served as a flower girl.

The dogs, who’d been taught to bark on command, responded to their vows with a “woof.” Well, actually Jutta answered for both of them, Barb Prevort said.

Friends brought the newlywed couple gifts. Cake and Champagne were served.

The only downside to the wedding came later, when Jutta gave birth to puppies that were half-German shepherd and half-white collie. 

“My granddaughter was very mad,” Barb Prevort said. “She told me that Teddy should get a divorce.”

When the Prevorts’ dogs got hitched in 2002, “people thought we were crazy,” Prevort said. But today, doggy nuptials are blossoming, as people find new and unique ways to pamper their pets. Canine bar mitzvahs, known as “bark mitzvahs,” also are a growing trend.

When pet owners dress up their dogs in miniature white dresses and tiny tuxes, some believe the barks that signal “I do” reveal puppy love.

These animal lovers say their pooches can feel real longing for other pets, but experts aren’t so sure. Most people agree a wedding is just for fun or charity when the groom is drooling and the bride’s gown needs tailoring for her tail. After all, “you may now lick the bride” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

“Pet marriage or weddings are for people,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Owners host weddings because it makes them feel good, she said. People can’t know what dogs are thinking, but studies have shown they do experience emotion, Beaver said.

“Fear is a classic example,” she said. “But we don’t know if they experience it as you or I would.”

Others say it’s all about the animals — even if that means the first dance is a walk around a patch of grass instead a waltz.

“The weddings are for the dogs,” said Adina Slotsky, the owner and CEO of Hollywood Pet Parties. Still, birthday parties, dubbed “barkdays,” are much more popular, she said.

When owners plan doggy nuptials, aka “puptials,” they can go all out and stage some real tail-waggers. There are groomsmen and bridesmaids of every breed — and even some people who get down on all fours — flowers, music and a reception with food both people and pooches can enjoy, ranging from apple slices to baby back ribs with spinach.

All pet weddings move quickly because of short animal attention spans. With all the distractions, dogs spend lots of time on leashes.

A simple wedding costs about $300, Slotsky said. But it can easily grow to thousands of dollars if guests are plentiful, the venue is top-notch, the food is extravagant, a band plays and a florist creates centerpieces, she said.

The most lavish pet wedding took place in New York in 2012 when Baby Hope Diamond, a fluffy white Coton de Tulear, married a poodle named Chilly Pasternak as a charity fundraiser.

It was a ceremony for the ages, complete with limos, a $6,000 designer dress, sushi chef, mixologist to create “puptails,” florist, orchestra, wedding planner and parking valets. Ellen DeGeneres’ pet food company furnished a dog food buffet.

The event raised over $158,000 for the Humane Society of New York and earned a place in Guinness World Records for the most expensive pet wedding. Everything was donated and guests spent up to $10,000 for a table of 10.

One thing pet owners don’t have to worry about is divorce. But because animals have unique personalities just like people, there is no guarantee two animals will get along, Beaver said.

No studies show pets like or love one another, but “it is very common for two or more individual animals to spend a great amount of time together and show signs of stress if separated,” she said.

But some stick by the belief that dogs love, including Carol Bryant, co-founder of Wigglebutt Warriors, the fundraising division of the dog health website Fidose of Reality.

“I do believe that dogs can love and be in love with each other,” said Bryant, whose cocker spaniel married another dog for a company fundraiser.

WIG’s New Year’s Eve Guide

Finding a New Year’s Eve party in Wisconsin isn’t hard. It’s finding the right one for you and your friends and family that can be tough. Before you wander blindly into the night, give this guide a glance — the perfect event might be tucked away in its listings.

And if your New Year’s plans include more than a champagne toast, don’t drink and drive. Instead, take advantage of the temporarily free bus service in Milwaukee and Madison, to make sure you get to and from your festivities safely. For more information on Milwaukee’s routes, visit ridemcts.com or call 414-344-6711. For more information on Madison’s routes, visit cityofmadison.com/metro or call 608-266-4466.

MILWAUKEE

Highlights

Jim Gaffigan at the Pabst Theater

Jim Gaffigan’s annual show at the Pabst Theater has become the Holy Grail of New Year’s celebrations for comedy-loving Milwaukeeans, and for good reason. The comedian’s Comedy Central specials and appearances on  film and television have earned him a reputation as one of the best in the business today, and in Milwaukee he proves it not just once, but three times: on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Eve Eve and New Year’s Eve Eve Eve. 7 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30; 10:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at 144 E. Wells St. $55, $85 for premium NYE seats. pabsttheater.org.

New Year’s Eve with The Get Down

Joining the Get Down at Turner Hall Ballroom has practically become a New Year’s Eve tradition in Milwaukee, so if you haven’t yet patronized this dance party, get with it this year. The funk and soul DJs will be spinning real 45s all night long, and the all-inclusive event comes with an open bar, midnight pizza buffet and a bunch of exclusive bonuses if you bump up to VIP tickets. 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 1040 N. Fourth St. $60, $85 VIP. pabsttheater.org.


Downtown

42 Lounge NYE Party

The wonders of technology bring an exclusive stream from Long Island DJ Seanlogic to 42’s dance floor. 9 p.m. at 326 E. Mason St. $5. 42lounge.com. 

Belmont’s NYE Party

Sophisticated downtown bar opens its doors for New Year’s, without the typical upcharge. 8 p.m. at 784 N. Jefferson St. No cover. thebelmonttavern.com. 

Best Place Formal Pajama NYE Party

Milwaukee’s most playful party returns for a fourth year, with the same dress code: suits and cocktail attire before midnight, comfy ‘jamas after. 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. at 901 W. Juneau Ave. No cover.
bestplacemilwaukee.com.

“Blu” Year’s Eve

The Pfister Hotel’s swanky 23rd floor lounge goes exclusive for NYE, with a variety of seating packages to hear Janet Mahoney perform and to sample international desserts and cheeses. 8:30 p.m. at 424 E. Wisconsin Ave. $250, $350 and $450 packages. blumilwaukee.com.

Bugsy’s NYE Masquerade Ball

This speakeasy won’t be the only thing in disguise for New Year’s Eve, though don’t let your masks blind you to the complementary appetizers from Bugsy’s “front,” Gouda’s Italian Deli. 7 p.m. at 218 N. Water St. No cover.
bugsysbackalleysaloon.com.

CLEAR Seven Deadly Sins New Year’s Eve Party

Singer Alyce Hart performs while seven drink specials offer you the opportunity to indulge your vices for the evening. 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at InterContinental Milwaukee, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave. Free.
intercontinentalmilwaukee.com.

‘A Cudahy Caroler Christmas’

In Tandem’s South Milwaukee carolers let you sing along, and offer a champagne toast with “fireworks” after the show. 9:30 p.m. Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. $35. intandemtheatre.org.

Distil New Year’s Eve Noir

High-class, film noir party with pre-fixe bourbon flights and cocktail progressions floating about. 7 p.m. at 722 N. Milwaukee St. No cover. distilmilwaukee.com.

EVO Milwaukee NYE

New York’s ball won’t be the only one dropping at EVO Milwaukee, where exclusive 10-person packages earn you your own ping-pong table as well as an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. 8 p.m. at 233 E. Chicago St. $800. evolutionmke.com.

Harlem Globetrotters

Unrivaled basketball entertainers return to Milwaukee for their annual New Year’s Eve engagement. 1 and 6 p.m. at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, 1001 N. Fourth St. $20-$132.
bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.

Mi.key’s NYE 2015

FM radio’s Energy 106.9 takes over this all-inclusive Cathedral Square party, with Cousin Ed hosting and DJ Ekin mixing tracks. 10 p.m. at 811 N. Jefferson St. $55.
mikeysmilwaukee.com.

New Year’s Eve @ OAK Lounge

Midwest-born DJ duo Milk N Cookies ring in the new year at this hot Third Ward dance club. 7 p.m. at 231 E. Buffalo St. $25. oakmilwaukee.com.

NYE 2015 @ Lucid

SURG’s brand-new downtown hotspot and hookah lounge makes its debut in a flash of New Year’s glory, with the help of Newaukee. 9 p.m. at 729 N. Milwaukee St. $85, 4-person packages for $500 or $650. lucidmke.com.

Plastered with Plaster

Learn to paint and sculpt with plaster at Splash Studios, but don’t get any in the complementary snacks or on the black light dance floor. 9 p.m. 184 N. Broadway. $65.
splashmilwaukee.com.

Shag on New Year’s Eve!

Less sexual than the title suggests (presumably), Milwaukee Ale House’s New Year’s Eve celebration invites one of Milwaukee’s most talented cover bands, Shag, to perform. 9:30 p.m. at 233 N. Water St. No cover. ale-house.com.

Skylight NYE Sing Along:‘The Wizard of Oz’

A usual night at Skylight’s hit holiday musical, except if you chime in on “Over the Rainbow,” an usher won’t drag you out of the theater. 8 p.m. at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. $77. skylightmusictheatre.org.

Stellar Spark 12: Carnage

The Eagles Ballroom goes even more EDM than usual for NYE. 8 p.m. at The Rave, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave. $45.
therave.com.

Toast Around the World Party

Afternoon-long festivities, toasting the new year in Moscow, Greece, Paris and London before buckling down to celebrate our own midnight. 1 p.m. to bar close at the Safe House, 779 N. Front St. $15, $5 for children under 12. safe-house.com.

Trampled by Turtles

Genre-defying string band takes the Riverside stage, accompanied by surreal R&B singer/songwriter Har Mar Superstar and British shoegazers Fever Dream. 8 p.m. at 116 W. Wisconsin Ave. $44, $99 VIP. pabsttheater.org.

‘Valley of the Dolls’

Dale Gutzman of Off the Wall Theatre turns one of film’s greatest fiascos into a terribly wonderful musical romp through show business, with drag, deliberately mediocre songs and a whole lot of drugs — for audience members too. 7 and 10 p.m. Dec. 31, with additional shows through Jan. 11, at 127 E. Wells St. $40, $30 for January shows. offthewalltheatre.com.

Whiskey Bar’s Huge NYE Celebration

Classy Cathedral Square bar hosts its hottest dance party of the year with, of course, its usual bounteous whiskey selection. 8 p.m. at 788 N. Jackson St. $30, $20 in advance, $295 VIP. whiskeybarmilwaukee.com.

East Side/Riverwest

Brew City Bass NYE

Big beats by mashup artist Manic Focus turn this classic concert venue into a night to remember. 8 p.m. at the Miramar Theatre, 2844 N. Oakland Ave. $40, VIP $100. themiramartheatre.com.

Hybrid NYE

The Brady Street gay bar goes for the laughs with an array of stand-up comedians throughout the night. 8 p.m. at 707 E Brady St. No cover. hybridlounge.net.

The Jazz Estate NYE

Evan Christian’s Wednesday residency lines up with New Year’s, making him the de facto headliner for the final show of 2014. 10 p.m. at 2423 N. Murray Ave. $5. jazzestate.com.

Lux NYE Masquerade Party

Brand-new lifestyle lounge Lux makes a splash this NYE, with patrons partaking in hookah, an open bar and a contest for the best mask. 9 p.m. at 2712 N. Martin Luther King Dr. $40, $200 four-person VIP package. luxnye2015.eventbrite.com.

Mad Planet’s NYE Dance Party

A dance club where most nights feel like New Year’s Eve goes all out for the real thing, with complementary champagne and food. 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. at 533 E. Center St. $15. mad-planet.net.

New Year’s Eve with Chris Barnes

Hometown comic gone national headliner closes the Comedy Cafe’s year. 8 and 10:15 p.m. 615 E. Brady St. $15–$25.
milwaukeescomedycafe.com

NYE with Upside Groove Coalition

Funk/soul/rock ’n’ roll collective takes residence at BBC’s Upper Level for the night, with extra drink specials if you get there early. 10 p.m. at G-Daddy’s BBC Bar & Grill, 2022 E. North Ave. $10. bbcmilwaukee.com.

‘Party Till You Sweat’ Dance Party

Milwaukee’s “Godfather of Soul” Harvey Scales headlines this groovy party and charity raffle. 8 p.m. at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave. $40, $30 in advance. shankhall.com.

Riverwest Public House NYE

Milwaukee’s collectively owned bar invites Cream City for a night of drag, burlesque and dance partying. 10 p.m. at 815 E. Locust St. $5.
riverwestpublichouse.wordpress.com.

School Yard NYE 2015

Collegiate-themed bar for the collegiate at heart breaks open the kegs for the evening, with all-you-can-drink specials. 9 p.m. at 1815 E. Kenilworth. $25. schoolyardmke.com.

South Side/Bay View

Brew Year’s Eve

DJs Kid Cut Up and Mighty Thor, a five-hour open bar, free food and complementary entry into an afterparty at OAK’s make this a heck of a party, even with the high price tag. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, 1721 W. Canal St. $99.
brewyearsevemke.com.

Cafe Lulu NYE

Milwaukee favorites I’m Not a Pilot and the Fatty Acids are joined by newcomers Parallel to rock in the new year, with a late night snack buffet. 10 p.m. at 2261 S. Howell Ave. $15. lulubayview.com.

ComedySportz NYE

Longtime Milwaukee comedy tradition celebrates 2014 with two improv shows, all the champagne you can drink and an end-of-show New Year’s countdown. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at 420 S. 1st St. $35.
comedysportzmilwaukee.com.

Dead Man’s Carnival NYE Party

Steampunk DJs, sideshow spectacles, midway games and burlesque performers spread across multiple rooms make this perhaps Milwaukee’s most eclectic New Year’s option. 9 p.m. at Hot Water/Wherehouse, 818 S. Water. $50, $40 in advance, $150 VIP. deadmanscarnival.com.

Horny Goat NYE

Local country band Bella Cain is the big headliner at Horny Goat Brewing Company’s NYE party, unless you count Milwaukee’s largest balloon drop. 9 p.m. at 2011 S. First St. $65. hghideaway.com.

Iron Horse Hotel’s New Year’s Eve Boogie

88Nine’s 2012 Artist of the Year Klassik and his band Fresh Cut Collective bring hip grooves to the Iron Horse for a night of dancing and midnight balloon drops. 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 500 W. Florida St. $20.
theironhorsehotel.com.

The Packing House NYE

South side supper club invites the smooth Lem Banks Quartet to join its patrons for dinner. 7 p.m. at 900 E. Layton Ave. No cover. packinghousemke.com.

Studio 54 New Year’s Party

Vintage disco tunes, dance cages and go-go galore transform the Alchemist Theatre lounge into ’70s New York for the evening. 9:30 p.m. at 2569 N. Kinnickinnic Ave. $40, $30 in advance.
thealchemisttheatre.com.

For Families

Ice Skating in Red Arrow Park

Extended hours mean you can act out your inner Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski fantasies even longer on NYE. Through 1 a.m. at 920 N. Water St. Free. county.milwaukee.gov.

Mitchell Park Domes NYE Family Celebration

One of the only family-friendly indoor New Year’s parties in Milwaukee, with authentic Irish/Scottish music, children’s activities, and food by Zilli’s Hospitality. 6 to 9 p.m. at 524 S. Layton Blvd. $10 adults, $5 kids ages 4–17. milwaukeedomes.org.

New Year’s Eve at Noon

Little ones ring in 2015 fashionably early with Father Time, Baby New Year and a (juice) toast at 12 sharp. 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, 929 E. Wisconsin Ave. Free with regular $8 admission. bbcmkids.org.

MADISON

Highlights

New Year’s Eve ArtPop

This NYE event is less Lady Gaga, more bottles and bottles of bubbly champagne from around the world. Entry at this Fresco event gets you three pours from the 20 varieties of sparkling wine behind the Bubbly Bar, as well as hors d’oeuvres and grooves from DJ Billy the Kid. 9:30 p.m. at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St. $60. artpopfresco.eventbrite.com.

Decadance: A New Year’s Celebration

The Majestic Theatre once again hosts this chronological journey through more than 100 years of dance music, chaperoned by Madison DJs Nick Nice and Mike Carlson. The evening will kick off in the early days of jazz, and work its way through the decades an hour at a time, culminating with the hottest songs of 2014 as 2015 begins. 8 p.m. at 115 King St. $15. majesticmadison.com

Downtown/State Street

Cardinal Bar NYE Party

One of Madison’s danciest clubs gets even dancier for New Year’s Eve. 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. at 418 E. Wilson St. No cover. cardinalbar.com.

DLUX New Year’s Eve

High-class burger joint flips the script to feature an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and dance beats from Eugene Craven. 9 p.m. at 117 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $75. dluxmadison.com.

Electric Winter Wonder Land

The two Milwaukee DJs of Antics head west to headline a fancy Segredo dance party. 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. at 624 University Ave. $20, $25 under-21, $85 and up for VIP. segredomadison.com.

Frequency New Year’s Bash

Punk metal rockers Whiskey Pig drag themselves out of the “sleazy underbelly of Madison” they call home for this gritty NYE dance party. 9 p.m. at 121 W. Main St. $5. madisonfrequency.com.

High Noon New Year’s Eve Bash

Jesus Lizard, Turbonegro, Iron Maiden, Social Distortion, Hanson and Oasis show up to celebrate New Year’s in Madison — in spirit, at least, thanks to a half-dozen bands performing tribute sets. 8 p.m. at 701 E. Washington Ave. #A. $10. high-noon.com.

Ivory Room NYE Masquerade Ball

The pianos will duel as fiercely as ever, but only a mask will get you into the open bar. 8 p.m. at 111 State St. $75.
ivoryroompianobar.com.

Merchant NYE Dinner & Party

The main event is a three-course dinner, but this Madison hotspot will also open its doors to the public at 11 p.m. for a high-class dance party with craft cocktails on hand. 5 p.m. at 121 S. Pinckney St. $50 for dinner with optional $25 cocktail/wine pairing, or $10 cover at 11 p.m. merchantmadison.com. 

Natt Spil NYE

DJ Foshizzle helps this cozy, tucked-away bar celebrate NYE with style. 10 p.m. at 211 King St. No cover. nattspil.com.

New Year’s Eve Extravaganza

Double the NYE festivities, with two bars (Come Back In/Essen Haus), two bands (Live at Nine/Tom Brusky) and two buffets. 6 p.m. at 514 E. Wilson St. $65, $70 after Dec. 26. essen-haus.com.

Woof’s Masked Madness NYE

The best-disguised will win a prize at Woof’s house-beat-infused masquerade, although it’s safe to say they won’t be the only one going home with a party favor. 10 p.m. at 114 King St. No cover. woofsmadison.com.

YPNYE

Upscale, all-you-can-drink event designed for young professionals but themed around “Old Hollywood,” benefiting the Special Olympics. 9 p.m. at the Hilton Monona Terrace, 9 E. Wilson St. $99. ypnye.com.

Willy Street/Atwood/East Side

Brink Lounge NYE Party

Fancy banquet hall stages a “Cowgirls and Gangsters” show, by putting both Madison rocker Beth Kille and blues band Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo on the same stage. 9 p.m. at 701 E. Washington Ave., Suite 105. $15. thebrinklounge.com.

Harmony NYE with People Brothers Band and Rev. Eddie Danger

The beloved Harmony Bar and Grill hosts soul and folk artists and breaks out its famous buffet. 9:45 p.m. at 2201 Atwood Ave. $25. harmonybarandgrill.com.

Lazy Oaf Lounge NYE Party

Classic rock cover band Saturday Morning Cartel performs hits from across five decades on Madison’s east side. 10 p.m. at 1617 N. Stoughton Rd. No cover. lazyoaflounge.com.

Nasty New Year’s WORT Benefit

Alchemy Cafe supports community radio with the help of seven-piece funk band The Mustache. 11:30 p.m. at 1980 Atwood Ave. $10. alchemycafe.net

One Night, One Community New Year’s Eve Celebration

Elegant gala designed to bring a diverse Madison community together for food, dancing and fun. 8 p.m. at the East Side Club, 3735 Monona Dr. $40. ulgm.org.

West Side/Middleton

African Association of Madison New Year’s Eve Gala

The AAM celebrates those who’ve strengthened the Madison community, and then the music and dancing starts up. 7 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Dr. $35. africanassociationofmadison.org.

Badger Bowl NYE 2015

’80s cover band Cherry Pie entertains attendees, one of whom will win $2,015 before midnight. 9:15 p.m. at 506 E. Badger Rd. $12, $35 VIP. badgerbowl.com.

Club Tavern NYE Party

Come to dance to the sound of the soulful Blue Olives, stay to get taken home by a moose (bar owner “Moose” offers free rides home for tipsy patrons). 9 p.m. at 1915 Branch St., Middleton. No cover. clubtavern.com.

Great Dane NYE Party

Major Madison pub shakes up its usual routine by bringing in local rockers Mighty Wheelhouse and DJ AudioMaxx to celebrate the New Year. 9 p.m. at 357 Price Place. $5. greatdanepub.com.

Irish New Year

Live Irish music segues into the traditional American dance/karaoke party. 6 p.m. at Claddagh Irish Pub, 1611 Aspen Commons, Middleton. No cover. claddaghirishpubs.com.

For Families

Olbrich’s Holiday Express

Big trains and miniature landscapes make these botanical gardens a hit for young children. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3330 Atwood Ave. $3 adults, $2 kids 3 to 12. olbrich.org.

U.S. Bank Eve

Monona Terrace, U.S. Bank Plaza and Middleton’s Keva Sports Center find themselves packed with alcohol-free family entertainment. 6 to 10 p.m. in Madison, 4 to 8 p.m. in Middleton. 1 John Nolen Dr.; 1 S. Pinckney St.; 8312 Forsythia St. (Middleton). Free. usbank.com.

Midterm Elections: On the ballot in 50 states

A to W: A state-by-state look at what is topping the ticket in the Nov. 4 election:

ALABAMA — Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has no opposition for a fourth term. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is favored for re-election to a second term. Republican Gary Palmer is poised to win the state’s one open House seat.

ALASKA — Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, tries to fend off Dan Sullivan, an ex-State Department appointee in George W. Bush’s administration, in a race that could tip the balance of power in the Senate. Dogged by an Alaska National Guard scandal, incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell faces an uphill battle against a combined independent-Democratic ticket.

ARIZONA — Former ice cream chain CEO Doug Ducey is in a difficult-to-forecast governor’s race against Democrat Fred DuVal. Republicans hope to gain two House seats in swing districts.

ARKANSAS — Two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor fighting for third term against Republican rival and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton in heated and expensive race. Republican Asa Hutchinson running against Democrat and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross in open governor’s race that national GOP figures have targeted after eight years under a popular Democratic incumbent.

CALIFORNIA — Democrat Jerry Brown is pitching a water bond and a rainy day fund as he seeks re-election to an unprecedented fourth term as governor over former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari. Special interest groups have also poured millions of dollars into three toss-up congressional races.

COLORADO — Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner are in a fierce race, as are Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez. Democrats are targeting one House Republican, Mike Coffman.

CONNECTICUT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is in a tight race against Tom Foley, the Republican businessman he narrowly defeated in 2010, as Democratic incumbents in all five U.S. House districts look to hold off GOP challengers. ßß

DELAWARE — Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons seeksßa full six-year term after defeating tea party activist Christine O’Donnell in a 2010 special election for Joe Biden’s former seat. Republicans try to keep the lone statewide office they hold and to gain another as well.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Democrat Muriel Bowser is favored to continue her party’s winning streak in the race for mayor of the heavily Democratic nation’s capital, despite a stronger-than-usual general election challenge from independent David Catania.

FLORIDA — Republican Gov. Rick Scott is in a tight battle with Democrat Charlie Crist, who was a Republican when he was elected to the office in 2006. Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana, needs 60 percent approval to pass, and it is going to be close. Only two of the 27 congressional races are expected to be competitive – one is held by a Republican and the other a Democrat.

GEORGIA — Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn are competing for an open U.S. Senate seat, while Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, faces a challenge from Democrat Jason Carter, a state senator and the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

HAWAII — Sen. Brian Schatz appears to be in a safe seat for Democrats in President Barack Obama’s native state; fresh off a stunning upset in the Democratic primary, state Sen. David Ige is favored to replace unpopular Gov. Neil Abercrombie but faces a tough fight from Republican James “Duke” Aiona.

IDAHO — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is favored to win a rare third term but faces stiff competition from Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian attorney John Bujak. Congressional GOP incumbents Sen. Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador are expected to sail to victory.

ILLINOIS — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is facing a tough challenge from wealthy GOP businessman and first-time candidate Bruce Rauner for control of Obama’s home state.

INDIANA — GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski is favored to hold the seat Democrat Joe Donnelly gave up in 2012 for a successful U.S. Senate bid.

IOWA — The race for U.S Senate remains tight between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley while Republican Terry Branstad is expected to cruise to easy re-election as governor.

KANSAS — In a race crucial to GOP hopes for Senate control, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is in a too-close-to-call match with independent Greg Orman. For governor, tax-cutting Republican incumbent Sam Brownback gets a stiff challenge from Democrat Paul Davis.

KENTUCKY_ Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes says the election is a referendum on Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. McConnell says the election is a referendum on Obama. Voters will decide who is right.

LOUISIANA — The only Democratic statewide elected official, Sen. Mary Landrieu is threatened in her bid for a fourth term by national Republican efforts to oust her and retake control of the Senate. This race is expected to go to a Dec. 6 runoff between Landrieu and her main GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy.

MAINE — Democrat Mike Michaud would be the nation’s first openly gay governor if he can unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage. GOP Sen. Susan Collins is expected to cruise to a fourth term.

MARYLAND — Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan are in a competitive governor’s race in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Congressional incumbents are not facing any stiff challenges.

MASSACHUSETTS — Democrat Martha Coakley, battling to become the first woman elected governor, is locked in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker, who is trying to return the office to GOP hands for the first time since Mitt Romney left in 2007.

MICHIGAN — GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is in a tight race for re-election with Democrat Mark Schauer. Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters is favored to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by mentor Carl Levin.

MINNESOTA — U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton are favored to keep top statewide seats in Democratic hands, but the party’s lock on state government is tenuous. The GOP is seen as likely to take the state House.

MISSISSIPPI — Six-term Sen. Thad Cochran won a tough Republican primary and has ignored two challengers, Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara; one Democrat and three Republicans in the House are safe.

MISSOURI — Only statewide office on the ballot is auditor, with the incumbent Republican facing two third-party candidates. Four ballot measures include one that could end teacher tenure, while local legislative races could give GOP veto-proof majorities in the Capitol.

MONTANA — GOP Rep. Steve Daines is expected to win Sen. John Walsh’s seat after Walsh dropped out in August over plagiarism revelations.

NEBRASKA — Republican Ben Sasse should easily win an open Senate seat in conservative Nebraska, but Democrat Brad Ashford and incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Terry are in a close race for an Omaha-based House seat.

NEVADA — GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval eyes an easy lopsided victory amid a Republican early voting wave that has nervous Democrats scrambling to catch up. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE — Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is hoping to oust incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen to secure his comeback to Washington from a second state.

NEW JERSEY — Republicans are trying to keep the 3rd Congressional seat in an open race between self-funded Republican Tom MacArthur and Democrat Aimee Belgard, whose campaign has been supplemented by independent spending from national groups.

NEW MEXICO — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is leading Attorney General Gary King in pursuit of second term. Republicans are looking to reclaim a legislative chamber for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

NEW YORK — Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains a heavy favorite in polls, while a series of close races will determine whether Republicans keep majority control of the state Senate.

NORTH CAROLINA — Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and GOP challenger Thom Tillis are battling down to the wire for the Senate seat in a key swing state; polls indicate a virtual dead heat.

NORTH DAKOTA — Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer appears headed to re-election, while Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, one of three people who sits on a panel that regulates oil, is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Ryan Taylor.

OHIO — GOP Gov. John Kasich is headed to a big re-election victory in what could shape up as a good day for Republicans across the state.

OKLAHOMA — Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot, and Republicans are heavy favorites to retain both. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to return for another four years.

OREGON — Sen. Jeff Merkley and Gov. John Kitzhaber, both Democrats, are likely to be re-elected, but a ballot measure to legalize marijuana could go either way.

PENNSYLVANIA — Democrat Tom Wolf appears poised to send Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to a historic defeat, making him the first incumbent to lose in the four decades since Pennsylvania’s chief executive was allowed to run again.

RHODE ISLAND — Democrat Gina Raimondo and Republican Allan Fung are in a close race for governor, while twice-convicted felon Buddy Cianci is attempting a comeback as Providence mayor.

SOUTH CAROLINA — Republican Nikki Haley is expected to easily win re-election for governor, increasing her national visibility in the Republican Party. Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott also are on track to retain their U.S. Senate seats.

SOUTH DAKOTA — After the U.S. Senate race tightened up due to an infusion of outside advertising money and nagging questions about his leadership as governor, Republican Mike Rounds has regained his status as front-runner over Democrat Rick Weiland and independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie.

TENNESSEE — Republican Lamar Alexander is favored for a third term in the Senate, but spending hold off long-shot Democrat Gordon Ball. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is cruising to a second term against Charles V. Brown, a Democrat who has mounted no organized campaign.ß

TEXAS — Republican Greg Abbott is heavily favored over Democrat Wendy Davis to become Texas’ first new governor since 2000. Democrats are unlikely to end a 20-year losing streak in statewide races.

UTAH — Republican Mia Love could become the first black female Republican in Congress. Interim Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes is likely to earn two more years in office.

VERMONT — Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to be the top vote-getter in the election, but the race will be decided by the Legislature if his vote total doesn’t reach 50 percent.

VIRGINIA — Sen. Mark Warner has maintained a consistent lead over GOP challenger Ed Gillespie in polls. Dave Brat, who defeated then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in June primary, aims to win general election.

WASHINGTON — Voters decide whether to increase the number of background checks on gun sales and transfers conducted in Washington state.

WEST VIRGINIA — Republican Shelley Moore Capito is favored to defeat Democrat Natalie Tennant for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s open seat, with two congressional contests and control of the Democratic state House of Delegates still up in the air.

WISCONSIN — Republican Gov. Scott Walker is in a tight re-election bid against political newcomer Democrat Mary Burke, two years after his recall victory and with a potential 2016 presidential bid at stake.

WYOMING — Republican Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis are cruising to fourth terms. GOP Gov. Matt Mead is poised for a second term.

Voters head to polls early in Wisconsin

Wisconsin clerks opened their doors to early voters on Oct. 20, giving people a chance to avoid Election Day lines and allowing partisans a window to rally supporters to vote in hopes of swinging the neck-in-neck race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

Wisconsin law requires municipal clerks to offer in-person early voting from the third Monday preceding an election through the Friday before the election. They can hold voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays but can set their own hours within those limits. Clerks who don’t have regular office hours must be available via appointment. The election itself is set for Nov. 4.

Wisconsin voters can cast absentee ballots by mail also but showing up early in person has grown more popular over the last few elections and could play a crucial role in the Walker-Burke race. A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed the candidates dead-even.

Higher turnout typically tends to favor Democrats. Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said volunteers are calling people and knocking on doors to encourage them to vote early. Burke said her campaign also would emphasize getting supporters to vote early through door-to-door visits, phone calls and social media.

Walker signed a bill earlier this year imposing the 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. limitations and barring early in-person voting on weekends.

Before the bill was introduced, state law allowed early in-person voting from the third Monday to 5 p.m. or the close of business, whichever was later, on the Friday before the election. That allowed clerks to stay open late into the evenings and on the last pre-election weekend.

Democrats decried the GOP measure as an attempt to tamp down turnout in heavily Democratic cities such as Milwaukee and Madison, which held extended hours during the 2012 presidential election.

However, with the most recent Marquette Law School poll showing Walker and Burke tied, Republicans are trying to get their base supporters out early as well. Wisconsin GOP Executive Director Joe Fadness said his party has been sending out mailers and making phone calls to voters explaining how convenient early voting is. Walker said his campaign will make an “aggressive” effort to get people out early, saying he thinks turnout will be the deciding factor in the race.

Neil V. Albrecht, the executive director of the Milwaukee City Election Commission, which administers elections in the state’s largest city in lieu of the municipal clerk, said he was disappointed that weekend early voting is off the table. He noted that more than 5,000 people voted early on the weekend before the 2012 election. Voting laws should encourage participation, he said.

His office will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday to accept what he anticipates could be as many as 30,000 early voters, he said.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said her office will remain open the maximum amount of hours as well. Her workers saw nearly 19,000 early voters during the 2012 election, she said, and she’s expecting about 10,000 this time around. Without weekend hours, her employees will have to move people through faster than in previous years, she said.

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison contributed to this report.

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