BANGOR, Maine — Every year, Bangor’s Downtown Countdown — the big New Year’s Eve bash thrown by the city — gets a little bigger and a little better. This year is no exception, with eight venues across downtown boasting an array of music, dance, comedy and children’s activities.
There are two big new parts of the event this year. First off, in order to support the growing number of festivities, Downtown Countdown organizers have decided to make part of the event available to the public via a small admission fee, in the form of a $5 button. The Belfast New Year’s By the Bay Festival has done such a thing for more than 10 years, so Bangor’s addition of a paid button is no surprise.
“We’ve kind of outgrown ourselves,” said Betsy Lundy, co-owner of Central Street Farmhouse and a community member helping to organize the fun. “We have instituted a button system that will provide access to a number of venues, including the Brick Church, Penobscot Theater and Bagel Central.”
Also new this year is the Mr. and Mrs. Paul Bunyan competition, a combination talent show, beauty pageant and all-out competition of brains and brawn, that will start at 4 p.m. in West Market Square, and continue in staggered events through 10 p.m.
Lundy said that while it’s clear that Bangor’s unofficial mascot is Paul Bunyan, and that we have a rich history in the lumber industry, what really sets Bangor apart from other cities is our sense of humor.
“[We have] our own cheeky posture. We wanted to have a mascot that represented the particular humor that sets Bangor apart,” she said. “We quickly settled on Paul Bunyan. We took everything we love about Paul and created a competition that would emulate his lifestyle.”
Participants will compete in four areas: a talent show, mechanical bull riding, flapjack eating and a flannel fashion show. One man and one woman will be crowned winners — they do not have to be a couple; anyone can enter — and each will win a cash prize and will together throw the famed beach ball off Paddy Murphy’s roof at midnight. Potential participants had until Saturday, Dec. 22 to register; five men and five women will be chosen to compete.
In addition to the aforementioned fun, there are plenty of other events throughout the evening, in a total of eight venues; they are listed below. A map of all venues can be found at countdownbangor.com.
Main Stage at West Market Square
In addition to the Paul Bunyan Competition, there will be music from electro-pop group The Other Bones and rockers OneSixtyOne. There will be hot chocolate, pizza from Pizza Pie on the Fly, and, of course, the ball drop at midnight.
University of Maine Museum of Art
From 7 to 9 p.m. participants can make a New Year’s Eve crown or tiara at the museum, free of charge.
The Juke Rockets, the Maine Blues Society band of the year, will perform at Bagel Central all evening. This is a button event, or $3.
Maine Discovery Museum
From noon until 8:30 p.m., little ones who don’t want to stay up until midnight can check out juggling, a reptile display, a disco dance party, and noisemaker and hat making. This is a button event, or $3.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Organists Robert and Nancy Ludwig will be joined by flutist Greig Shearer; the concert, set for 8 to 9 p.m., will include music by Bach, selections from “Four Hands and Four Feet” and the “Radetzky March” by Strauss. There will be a reception at 9 p.m.
Bangor Public Library
Magician Danny Baker will perform at 6:15 p.m., and the Robinson Ballet will give a performance at 7:45 p.m. There will also be an inflatable star theater from Northern Stars Planetarium; free tickets for the 7 p.m. show are available at the library.
Bangor Opera House
Two bands will take the stage at the Bangor Opera House; they include Orono-based jazz rock ensemble Velma at 7 p.m. and Boston-based surf rockers Trabant at 8:30. This is a button event, or $3.
Union Street Brick Church
The RetroRockerz will play classic rock covers starting at 9 p.m.; this is a button event, or $3.