EASTPORT, Maine — Unusually warm weather brought hundreds to Water Street in Eastport on New Year’s Eve, where a giant sardine and a red maple leaf were dropped from the top of one of the downtown’s historic buildings, ushering in 2011. Luminaries decorated the sidewalks, the town’s Christmas tree was lit by hydropower, and partygoers danced on the deck of a local restaurant.
While a brass band played first “O Canada” at 11 p.m. ET — or midnight Atlantic Time — and then “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight EST — hundreds sang along, blew noisemakers, waved sparklers and embraced each other.
Carol and Horace Lukens of Toddy Pond in Orland traveled to Eastport for the first time in years and were surprised by the changes. “These are good changes,” Horace Lukens said, referring to the filled storefronts, business expansions and a major expansion of the creative economy.
“And this night is wonderful,” Carol Lukens said. “We first learned about the sardine drop four years ago, and we have been wanting to come ever since. We have found the people of Eastport to be so friendly and genuine.”
Eastport may not have cornered the market on unique New Year’s “drops.”
Lebanon, Pa., dropped a 7-foot-long bologna; Atlanta, Ga., dropped a 800-pound peach; Honolulu dropped a 200-pound papier-mache pineapple; and at Vincennes, Ind. — known for growing watermelons — a 500-pound replica watermelon was lifted at the Riverfront Pavilion and then 11 real watermelons were dropped and splattered below.
The fish theme reappears in Port Clinton, Ohio, where a 20-foot, 600-pound fiberglass walleye drops from a crane.
But Eastport has the distinction of dropping stuff twice — with an international flair. A giant red maple leaf was lowered at 11 p.m. — Atlantic Time — in homage to the island’s Canadian neighbors a mile across the bay.
Then at midnight Eastern Time, an 8-foot-long sardine dropped from the window to ring in Eastport’s new year.
Eastport restaurants, shops and businesses were open for the evening, providing a festive backdrop for the event.
Linda Godfrey of The Commons said she was looking forward to 2011 — her birthday is 1-1-11 — and hopes the year brings creativity and a time to get things in order. “I’m really looking forward to this year,” she said.
The Lukenses said it is their wish to live full time in Maine in 2011. They now split their time between Orland and Mississippi.
Lorraine Daggett of Calais said she hoped 2011 would find “many more people with happy hearts.”
Shirley Rennie of Jonesport said she was looking forward to a year of personal growth. “I’m going to concentrate on three things: exercise, refreshing my spirituality, and learning Japanese.” Rennie explained that her son recently moved to Japan, and learning the language is now a priority.
“This is awesome,” said Jack Thompson of Plymouth, Mass. “I cannot believe we have not made the trip here before this. My wish for 2011? Strength and wisdom for our leaders, peace for the world and peace within myself.”
It was 11-year old Jared Simpson of Portland who put it all into perspective: “I want to help my mom and dad more with my chores in 2011,” he said, “and I’m hoping they’ll decide to give me a bigger allowance.”