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Detroit — For the first time, Noel Night opened early with more shopping, family activities and police presence than before. 

On Saturday, visitors started enjoying holiday activities at 11 a.m.when museums including the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, as well as the College for Creative Studies, and the Detroit Public Library. opened for early visitors. 

Traditional holiday programming at the cultural centers also moved to a daytime schedule. The DIA and CCS will close after 5 p.m. 

Noel Night will continue on 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with more than 120 venues and the Salvation Army Brass Band sing-along is planned at the southwest corner of Cass and Prentis. 

The completely free winter festival, which last year drew almost 75,000, expanded into the day in part to spread out crowds, possibly due to last year's shooting, which injured four teens near the Michigan Science Center. 

By 2:30 p.m., the holiday shopping tent had seen more than 400 people pass through, said Emily Thompson, a manager with Wayne State's Office of Economic Development.

"Similarly to last year, we have more than 50 vendors under the tent so that hasn't gotten bigger, but the venues that are participating have," she said. "We have the free photo booth, a new art and scraps station for children to make Christmas ornaments and take them home."

After Becki and Jeremy Water finished watching their daughter perform at the Detroit Music Theater with Dream Arts Company, a Bloomfield nonprofit musical theater company and took their three kids to see the rest of the activities during the day. 

"The best thing we've seen so far today is our daughter," said Becki Water, from Royal Oak. "We weren't really discouraged to come at night. Last year, we were coming out of the library after the shooting happened. Our daughter was a little scared, but we come to Detroit a lot and that's not going to stop us from coming, getting some ramen and enjoying it."

Midtown will be bursting with Santa photo ops, including at the Busted Bra Shop, Cass Community United Methodist Church, the Detroit Historical Museum, Filson, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Mosaic Midtown Church, Nest and the Park Shelton lobby, among other places. 

It was Dan Redford's first time attending Noel Night since he recently moved from Frankenmuth to Detroit's Indian Village.

"It's the first day of December and this is a nice day out in the city with some holiday cheer," said Redford, 30. "The Home Alone can sculpture (located at WSU's Welcome Center) was probably the best we've seen so far."

Redford said the previous shootings didn't influence his plans to attend. 

"I've talked to so many people that live around me on just how much things have changed in Detroit," he said. "Things happen, we shouldn’t let that keep us from going out and enjoying the city."

Check the complete program for times. 

srahal@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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