Before Father Time descended the steps, the saxophonists at the Creative Discovery Museum started playing "Auld Lang Syne" as hundreds of children tried to play along on their kazoos.
"Ready?" Tim Evans asked his daughter perched on his shoulders. "You just blow in it and hum."
After piles and piles of confetti fell on the 900 or so people crammed into the atrium, Larissa Evans, 4, started picking up handfuls and putting it in a plastic bag so she could show her 9-day-old brother.
The annual New Year's at Noon event has been held since 1998, according to museum education director Jayne Griffin. The event allows families and children to celebrate the countdown to the New Year at noon instead of waiting up past bedtime until midnight.
Evans said he brought his daughter last year with a group of friends and she had a good time, so he brought her back.
"She gets a kick out of it, especially with the whole gathering and the dropping confetti," he said. "It also allows her to celebrate the New Year without keeping her up too late."
Kimberly and Kenneth Helsey, who moved to Knoxville from Washington, D.C., used to go to big celebrations in the city. They wanted to show their 4-year-old, Katherine, what a New Year's Eve celebration was like because she normally wouldn't get to experience it.
Deon and Petrise Miles said they brought their 4-year-old and 1-year-old sons.
"We won't be able to make it to 12 [midnight] either," Deon Miles said, "so this is our celebration, as well."
Just before noon, as the massed crowd squeezed together for the traditional 10-second countdown, Griffin told the kids to look forward to what will come in the new year, and she reminded them of the weather highlights of 2011, including snow last winter and tornadoes in April.
"You're saying goodbye to the old and hello to the excitement of the New Year," she told them.
As the confetti fell and the saxophonists honked, Father Time, played by Creative Discovery Museum Executive Director Henry Schulson, walked down the stairs carrying the New Year baby, who represents the newness of 2012.
And to that, the kids raised cups of apple juice and toasted the New Year.