May 24, 2018
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Sardine, maple leaf to drop in Eastport

Bill Schaefer of East Machias, Maine lifts the Great Sardine in front of the Tides Institute in preparation for the New Year's Eve Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop. PHOTO BY HUGH FRENCH
By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

EASTPORT, Maine — For the fifth consecutive year, the Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop will ring in the new year in Eastport.

In homage to both the U.S. and Canada, two drops are planned: one at 11 p.m. U.S. time and the other at midnight.

The first drop will be the Canadian maple leaf, to honor Eastport’s Canadian neighbors. The giant sardine will be dropped at midnight — a nod to the area’s historic sardine fishing and canning past.

Although celebrations and events are held all over the city, the leaf and sardine drop are held downtown at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art at Bank Square.

Billed as one of America’s “most offbeat celebrations” by MSNBC, Eastport’s New Year’s Eve is “great fun,” according to resident Meg McGarvey.

“We treasure our connections with Canada,” McGarvey said Monday. That is why the annual drop is actually held twice.

A bright red maple leaf will make its descent at midnight Atlantic Time, or 11 p.m. Eastern. The sardine is lowered an hour later at midnight Eastern Time.

“There have been hundreds of people standing in the street,” McGarvey said. When the maple leaf is dropped, many voices join in “O Canada,” that country’s national anthem, and McGarvey said people are often in tears.

Spontaneous line dancing has been popular when the sardine drops.

Music for the evening’s festivities will feature fanfares by the brass quartet the New Year’s Eve Brass Band, organized by singer-songwriter and musician Rafi Hopkins. It also has become a tradition to have one’s picture taken with the sardine.

The Tides Institute is host to the event each year, lowering the fish from its third-story window. The building is the former Eastport Savings Bank, built in 1887, and is a National Register of Historic Places anchor property in downtown Eastport.

Sculptor Bill Schaefer, of East Machias, created the current fish, which has a bent wood frame stretched with canvas. He has painted the sardine to look as if it was caught fresh from the Atlantic.

Also on New Year’s Eve, five plays in two shows will be presented at the Eastport Arts Center for adult audiences. The shows will be held at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at the center on Washington Street.

Tickets are $5 per person. For more information call the box office at 853-4650.

To add to the celebration, a number of dining establishments, including the Rose Garden Cafe, Happy Crab and Pickled Herring, are offering dinner specials and entertainment. Downtown businesses and galleries will be open during the day and early evening with The Commons open until midnight. A list of accommodations, food and drink, and downtown shops’ hours for the day and end-of-year occasion are posted at the Tides Institute Web site,

For information on the Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop visit the Web site or contact the Tides Institute at 853-4047. To make reservations for lodging or meals contact participating establishments directly.

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