BANGOR, Maine — The digital clock in West Market Square read 19:34:58 when Downtown Countdown officially kicked off the beginning of the end for 2010.
The clock, which projected military time in orange numbers on a screen, was a new addition to the Queen City’s version of the iconic ball drop in Times Square in New York City. Other additions to the festivities were live bands outside on Broad Street and reality television stars at Hollywood Slots.
“I think the warm weather definitely will work in our favor,” Mackie Faye Hill, Downtown Countdown event planner, said Friday night just before the official kickoff. “It really is a perfect night.”
The temperature at Bangor International Airport at 8 p.m. was 35 degrees, according to the National Weather Service website, and was not predicted to fall much lower.
The only glitch in plans, said Hill, was the cancellation of s’more making in West Market Square. She said the Fire Department believed it would be too dangerous to have bonfires downtown.
Bangor lawyer Stephen Smith in 2004 instituted a low-budget New Year’s Eve affair in downtown Bangor on a whim. He threw a big, purple beach ball covered with white Christmas lights from the roof of 26 Main St. while 200 to 300 people gawked from West Market Square below.
It was the beginning of a tradition that Friday featured events at a dozen venues including a street dance on Broad Street, an improv troupe at the Bangor Opera House and bands performing in churches and at City Hall.
For Justin Wolff, his wife, Megan Wolff, and their two children, Ruby Wolff, 6, and Oscar Wolff, 4, of Bangor, 2010 was the first time they had come downtown on New Year’s Eve.
“We had dinner down here,” Justin Wolff said. “We love the band Queen City and wanted the kids to be able to dance outside to them.”
Queen City was scheduled to play for the kickoff to the evening’s festivities.
Justin Wolff said the couple would miss the midnight ball drop because the children were too young to stay up that late.
“Our baby sitter plans to be down here, so we can’t, but this is a great event for families,” he said.
Unofficially, the Downtown Countdown kicked things off at 4 p.m. when the Maine Discovery Museum flung open its doors and waived entrance fees.
Ziya Moon and Nora Payne, both 8 and of Bangor, came to the museum with Nora’s mom, Kim Kauffman of Bangor. The girls are third-graders at 14th Street School in Bangor.
“Both their dads are working tonight,” Kauffman said while the girls, who have been friends since kindergarten, decorated noisemakers — toilet paper rolls filled with beans and capped at each end with construction paper. “This is something we could do as a family.”
Both girls said they would not stay up to celebrate the new year, but admitted they had stayed up that late with friends at sleepovers.
Three generations of one family took part in the festivities at the museum. The eldest barely recognized the building where the museum is housed. The last time Gary Bricker was in the building that houses the children’s museum, it was the Freese’s department store.
“This is fantastic,” he said of the museum.
Bricker and his wife, Holly Bricker, who live in Auburn, attended the early evening festivities with their daughter Jennifer Gallant and her children, Michael Gallant, 8, and Emma Gallant, 5, all of Glenburn.
“What else would we do on New Year’s Eve but spend it with our grandchildren?” he said.