PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The stars will be out tonight and with them will be a 6-foot-tall metal star to help residents usher in 2010.
Organizers are preparing for the Star City First Night celebration, an evening of revelry in the city’s downtown. Hosted by the Presque Isle Downtown Revitalization Committee and sponsored in part by Key Bank, the fete will feature activities including storytelling, games, movie showings, musical entertainment and dance performances. The festivities will begin at 8 p.m. and run through the star-raising event at midnight.
The star-raising will be held in the downtown corridor, which includes the area encompassing State and Main streets.
Festivities, which will include a toast to the new year, will conclude after the midnight star is raised on the State Street side of the four-story Key Bank building.
James Francomano, Presque Isle city planner, has been working with the promotions committee of the downtown revitalization committee to coordinate First Night activity. He said recently the committee is excited about the event, which is in its second year.
“It has become clear that we have the capacity to put on a large-scale New Year’s Eve or ‘First Night’ event,” said Francomano.
The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library will be the host site of many of the evening’s family-centered activities. Storytelling and a special visit by Curious George will kick off at the library at 8 p.m. with activities such as Wii games and children’s movies continuing through the night.
Hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages will be served throughout the evening. The Presque Isle Downtown Revitalization Committee plans a special toast for 9:30 p.m. to thank the organization’s many partners and volunteers. Musicians will perform at the library before and after the toast leading into the star event.
Special performances by the Moon Dance Studio dance troupe will get under way at 8 p.m. in the Ball Room at the Northeastland Hotel. Live music performed by the Aroostook River Band will follow the dancers at 9 p.m. Moon Dance will return for a second performance at 10 p.m., and the band will resume playing at 10:30 p.m. until it is time for the star raising. Refreshments will be served at the hotel.
Other businesses in the downtown are offering special promotions and activities for the evening. Among them, the Bemis and Rossignol Law Firm on the corner of State and Maine streets and the Northeastland Hotel’s Red Room will serve as warming stations, offering free coffee and hot chocolate to First Night attendees.
The Presque Isle police and fire departments will block off traffic on State Street between the intersections with Second and Main streets at approximately 11 p.m. to prepare for spectators to gather on the street around 11:30 p.m. to watch the star raising.
The star is a unique feature created by Northern Maine Community College students. It was constructed last December by a dozen NMCC welding and metal fabrication students and their instructor Dennis Albert. It is made of 26-gauge galvanized steel and steel rivets and is covered with resplendent lights.
Originally, the star was constructed to be raised on Dec. 31, 2008, to highlight the city’s 2009 Sesquicentennial Celebration. Now, it will be incorporated into what many believe will be an annual New Year’s Eve gala for Presque Isle.
“When we built the star, we were hoping that it was the start of something that would begin a new tradition that locally will become as well recognized as what happens at Times Square in New York,” said Albert. “We are pleased to see that is happening.”
Last year, the celebration was held farther up Main Street, closer to Green Hill Drive near the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Francomano said organizers felt it would be advantageous to bring the event into the downtown.
“Through the feedback we have received at public forums from area residents and business owners about how to promote the redevelopment of the downtown area, one of the chief areas of concern we hear is that we need to generate more foot traffic and be more aggressive about enhancing pedestrian safety and convenience downtown, all toward the goal of re-establishing downtown as the heart of the city,” he said. “The First Night celebration has been identified by the PIDRC promotions committee as a way to address these issues, basically by throwing a block party on State Street between Main and Second streets.”
The Star City First Night celebration will not end with the star raising event. Just after midnight, the festivities will move down the street from the area surrounding the Key Bank building to 149 State St., home of the new Wintergreen Arts Center.
During the first hour of 2010, revelers will get a sneak peak of the newly renovated center. A sparkling cider toast and entertainment by the Presque Isle High School Jazz Combo will be part of the festivities.
A nonprofit organization, the center first set up shop in the Aroostook Centre Mall in 2006. The center offers art classes, performances and other popular seasonal events for children and adults. Officials announced in November 2008 that the center would move to 149 State St., which is the old Wight Furniture building.
Ever since the move, the center has delayed most of its activities and concentrated efforts on fundraising to renovate and establish the new facility.
The facility will open officially later this week.