In 2008, there were 1,000 or so revelers in West Market Square to ring in 2009 during Bangor’s annual Downtown Countdown event. In 2010, there were 3,000. In 2012, just shy of 4,000. Will 2013 continue with the trend of Bangor’s New Year’s Eve festivities getting bigger and better with each year?
If Downtown Countdown organizers have their way, the answer hopefully is yes.
“Just as the city and the downtown is becoming known as a destination for arts and culture, and for bars and restaurants and shopping, so the Downtown Countdown keeps growing,” said Jason Bird, staff liaison for the Downtown Bangor Partnership, which organizes the event each year with Bangor marketing agency Section 4 Creative.
The 2013 Downtown Countdown will feature much of the same programming event-goers have come to love, like music in West Market Square and at Bagel Central, the Union Street Brick Church and the Rock & Art Shop, from the likes of rockers When Particles Collide, bluegrass band Maximum Blue, the Main Street R&B Revue, the Juke Rockets Blue Band and classic rock cover band the Retro Rockerz.
The Robinson Ballet will perform in West Market Square at 9 p.m., there’s crown making at the University of Maine Museum of Art, kids’ activities at the Maine Discovery Museum and, of course, the light-covered beach ball drop at the stroke of midnight, off the roof of Paddy Murphy’s.
There’s also the Mr. and Mrs. Paul Bunyan competition, now in its second year and featuring 12 men and women competing in ax throwing, flapjack eating, mechanical bull riding and flannel fashion contests, with the best in all four being named Mr. and Mrs. Bunyan. Each competitive event will be staggered in between other events in downtown. Additionally, “The Nite Show” with Dan Cashman on WABI TV-5 plans to broadcast live starting at 11:35 p.m. from West Market Square, interspersed with pre-taped favorite segments from 2013.
New this year is a free trolley — on loan from the city of Bath — which will take event-goers from location to location, saving time out on the chilly streets of Bangor. One of those locations is the BDN Maine Gala, a black tie event set for the Bangor Public Library from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring gourmet hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, music from southern Maine band the Waiters and from members of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, a photo booth and a midnight champagne toast. Tickets to the BDN Gala are $50 per person, available online.
Organizer Bird said he and his Downtown Countdown crew were going for a “carnival” like feel, like the famed winter carnival held in Quebec City each year.
“So to get that kind of feel, we’re going to have fire spinners and fire breathers and a roving magician going through the crowd in West Market Square,” said Bird. “We’re also going to have Timber Tina and her lumberjacks doing their thing [at 8 p.m. in West Market Square], and a caricature artist doing drawings, with our logo on it so it’s a keepsake for people.”
The Downtown Countdown gets a little bit bigger each year, and Bird and his organizers like to dream big for future celebrations.
“The fun thing about it are those blue sky planning sessions, where we toss around big ideas, like having a Ferris wheel or something big and fun like that,” said Bird. “The reality of Maine winters make things like that difficult, but our sponsors have been great and have allowed us the freedom to think outside the box. There’s always more we can do.”
For a full schedule of events and activities, visit countdownbangor.com.