Bangor boogies at the ball

Posted Jan. 01, 2009, at 8:08 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Music, vintage movies, dancing and consuming vats of hot chocolate and candy were some of the ways that people downtown rang in the new year.

With 10 official Downtown Countdown venues to choose from and a few restaurants and bars open for business, there were plenty of options to choose from while awaiting the annual stroke-of-midnight ball drop from the top of Stephen C. Smith’s historic brick building that overlooks West Market Square.

While unofficial estimates pegged this year’s crowd at about 2,000, Wednesday night’s frigid weather and brisk wind kept many people off the sidewalks.

Instead, most revelers stayed warm inside such hot spots as City Hall, where music topped the night’s agenda, the Hammond Street Senior Center, which presented the local dance troupe Step in Time Cloggers and ragtime piano player Tom “Jazzou” Jones, and the Charles Inn, which offered hot chocolate, music by the Bangor Jazz Trio and a “candy bar” where visitors could choose from an array of complementary confections.

Among the first New Year’s Eve revelers to stake out a spot to watch the ball drop were Diana Lebel, a Bangor House resident, and her 13-year-old grandson Will Keeslar of Holden. Both were attending the ball drop for the first time.

“We’ve already had hot chocolate,” Lebel said. After the ball drop, the two planned to toast the new year with glasses of nonalcoholic champagne.

Also downtown for the festivities were 11-year-old twins Lauren and Torrie Nightingale. The girls, who attend the William S. Cohen School in Bangor, were part of a group of several families who started the evening with dinner at one of downtown’s restaurants.

They also stopped by the Bangor Public Library for karaoke and other family activities and some of the vintage movies the River City Cinema Society screened at the Bangor Opera House, in between performances by Evergreen, a group that proved its multigenerational appeal on New Year’s Eve.

The Charles Inn also was on their itinerary.

Asked if she thought she and her sister would be able to stay awake until midnight, Torrie Nightingale quipped, “That’s why we came and got the candy.”

Some of those who turned up downtown, however, ended their evening earlier.

Bangor lawyer Timothy Woodcock, a former City Council chairman, was among those who planned to be home well before the ball dropped. Some of the venues he and his group hit Wednesday evening were the Charles Inn and the senior center.

“This is a very polished performance,” he said during a visit to the center as he watched the cloggers perform to tunes ranging from Latin music to a Cajun song played by a polka band.

One of the cloggers, Linda Nichols, 64, of Jackson, said all but one of the members were in their 60s.

“I’ve been doing it now for quite a while. It’s good for the heart,” she said of clogging.

Besides music and dancing, the seniors and their guests had card games going as well as a buffet that included sweets and pastries and a crockpot full of “crazy beans,” one of member Leo Goodwin’s specialties. The 71-year-old Holden man said the dish consists of beans, diced apples, chicken sausage, bacon and raisins, among other things.

“We’ve been here [on New Year’s Eve] for the last two years,” Goodwin said. He said he planned to go home early in hopes of catching some football on television.

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