Ring in the New Year!

Posted Dec. 29, 2008, at 7:24 p.m.

Sure, New York is the worldwide headquarters for New Year’s Eve “drops.” The Waterford crystal ball you see on TV is the 21st century version of a tradition held since 1907, when a huge ball of iron and wood was lowered from a flagpole in Times Square.

Be that as it may, plenty of other places around the world have taken the idea of a ball drop and fit it into their own New Year’s celebrations. Maine is no exception — three out of the four communities in eastern Maine that offer official festivities include an object to be lowered, dropped or flung merrily from a rooftop at the stroke of midnight. That’s in addition to the long list of mostly chemical-free, family-friendly events planned throughout the day and evening.

Here’s a list of some of your many options for end-of-the-year fun in 2008. From all of us here at the Bangor Daily News, have a safe, fun holiday, and may 2009 bring you everything you hope for.

Bangor

For the fourth year in a row, Bangor lawyer Stephen Smith and Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan at midnight will drop a beach ball covered in white strand lights from the roof of 26 Main St., known to some as the Paddy Murphy’s building. Waterford crystal it’s not, but hey, that’s not how we roll here in the Queen City, is it?

Leading up to the big moment, there are tons of activities all around downtown for all age groups. For the musically inclined, the Union Street Brick Church will host the RetroRockerz from 8 to 11:30 p.m.; J.B. Parker’s Cafe on Main Street will host jazz band Velma from 8:30 to 11 p.m.; the Bangor Jazz Trio will be at the Charles Inn in West Market Square from 8 to 10 p.m.; and Maximum Blue and Larry and Leslie Latour will play in the Bangor City Hall council chambers from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The Bangor Opera House will offer a screening, courtesy of River City Cinema, of the 1930s crime classic “After the Thin Man,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Folk band Evergreen will play three sets between 8 and 11 p.m., interspersed with animated shorts on the big screen. The Maine Discovery Museum has fun for children from 3 to 7 p.m., including make-your-own noisemakers, a New Year’s “Count Up” at 6 p.m., followed by a parade through the museum. From 6 to 11:30 p.m. the Hammond Street Senior Center will have games, ragtime piano from Tom “Jazzou” Jones and dancing from the Step in Time Cloggers.

From 7 to 9 p.m., the University of Maine Museum of Art has free make your own New Year’s Eve crowns and hats. The Bangor Public Library will host dancers from the Robinson Ballet, crafts, karaoke, a costume party, magician Danny Baker, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution and music from big band Sentimental Journey and the John Bapst Chamber Ensemble. Finally, the Unitarian Universalist Church on Park Street will have a spaghetti dinner from 5:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a contradance with UpRiver Reel from 8 to 11 p.m.

Belfast

New Year’s By the Bay has become one of the most fun New Year’s celebrations in the entire state. For just $10, you can purchase a button that gets you into a wealth of events too numerous to list in full here. A selected list of performances and activities includes poetry readings and tango music and lessons at the Colonial Theatre from 7 to 10:45 p.m.; blues from the Juke Rockets Band and rock from the Odd Law Band from 7 to 11:45 p.m. at the United Church of Christ on Spring Street, and Innana, Ferg n’ Songs and Three Button Deluxe at the Boathouse on the Waterfront from 4 p.m. until midnight.

Also at the United Church of Christ, Hawk Henries, Avis Maria Stella and David Dodson will perform sets from 6 p.m. until midnight. At the Unitarian Universalist Church on Miller Street, Scot Cannon will mime, and the Mehuman Trio, Rural Electric and Abba Rabbi Shabba will play between 4 p.m. and midnight. The Belfast Free Library hosts the Yentes Brothers, Seth the Bard and Full Contact Kitty; and the First Baptist Church on High Street will offer performances from the Belfast Bat Fiddlers, Ameranouche and the Katahdin Valley Boys.

That doesn’t include all the fun events at various businesses and eating and drinking establishments all over town. And, of course, at 11:45 p.m. the Drum and Rabble Corp will lead a procession from the corner of Main and High streets down to the waterfront, where there will be fireworks and a bonfire to ring in the New Year. For more information, visit www.nybb.org.

Eastport

Eastport doesn’t drop a ball — it drops a giant metallic sardine to commemorate the city’s past as a sardine-canning town. The sardine this year is decorated with copper foil, to honor the new copper roof at the Tides Institute, which sponsors the drop.

Leading up to the sardine drop, the Rose Garden Cafe offers music and food starting at 9 p.m. with a $20 admission, and the Tides Institute hosting the New Year’s Brass Band from 11 p.m. to midnight. A giant maple leaf will drop at midnight Atlantic Time to celebrate the New Year with our Canadian neighbors. For more info, visit www.tidesinstitute.org.

Presque Isle

New York has its ball, and so does Bangor. Eastport has a sardine and maple leaf. Presque Isle? It has a brand-new, 6-foot metal star created by students at Northern Maine Community College. The galvanized steel structure, decorated with more than 1,000 lights, will rise above the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center, reaching its peak at midnight. Refreshments and other activities will accompany the event. In a fun bit of trivia, Presque Isle is nicknamed the “Star City,” so the star commemorates that, as well as the town’s 150th anniversary, which will take place in 2009.

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