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‘Quirkiest’ New Year’s celebration still growing in Eastport

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Eastport’s New Year’s Eve 2013 Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop in front of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art's main building. Wabanaki supporters of a movement for indigenous rights and environmental justice that began in Canada were there to help spread the message of the Idle No More movement. Photo by Don Dunbar.

EASTPORT, Maine — The Tides Institute & Museum of Art will present the ninth annual Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop on Tuesday, Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.

From the third story of TIMA, a giant red maple leaf will be lowered to commemorate the Canadian new year at midnight, Atlantic time (11 p.m. ET), while the New Year’s Eve Brass Band plays “O Canada.” (French and English lyrics will be provided for revelers).

At midnight Eastern time, the 8-foot sardine will take the plunge, as the brass band plays “Auld Lang Syne,” with a group sing-along. The dual drops capitalize on Eastport’s location on the border with Canada and the time zone change between the countries, which allows all to celebrate the new year twice. After the sardine lands, attendees get a chance to kiss the fish for good luck as, weather permitting, a fireworks finale is sent up from the pier at the Waco Diner.

Leading up to the climactic midnight drops will be an array of events city-wide. Many downtown businesses will offer refreshments, special sales and extended hours for the event. At Sipayik (Pleasant Point, Perry), the Waponahki Museum will present a forgiveness ceremony and “Humble Song,” a Passamaquoddy tradition in which participants ask neighbors and friends to accept apologies for any wrongs done in the preceding year, allowing the new year to begin unsullied by any grudge.

For its first New Year’s Eve, TIMA’s StudioWorks building will be open for two shifts, with letterpress printmaking demonstrations, souvenirs and children’s activities, as well as live music between the drops. TIMA’s main building will offer an exhibit of new acquisitions and sardine- and maple-themed refreshments.

This year, Rachel Grena, a volunteer from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Eastport, will be rigging and lowering the giant sardine and leaf. Ohio-born and trained in Arizona, Grena wanted to come to Maine after her father told her many tales of his time living in the state. Grena said, “I want to reach out and get involved in the community of Eastport, to be able to help and get to know others so I can make it feel like home for my time spent here.”

A new poster in TIMA’s Hand Line Press series has been created for the 2013 celebration by Portland-based letterpress printmaker David Wolfe. The whimsical image takes inspiration from a Lookout brand sardine can label from the museum’s permanent collection.

The evening hours will offer many options for dining, dancing and the drinking of New Year’s toasts. Dastardly Dick’s Wicked Good Coffee will be offering free drip coffee to designated drivers; the newly opened Landmark 1887 will offer two seatings for dinner; and the Happy Crab, the Rose Garden and the Liberty Café and Pub will vie for party-goers, each offering admission with no cover charge.

For a full schedule of events, participating businesses and accommodations, please visit www.tidesinstitute.org/newyearseve2014.html. Also, a flyer with the schedule and businesses’ hours (and the New Year’s songs’ lyrics to boot) will be distributed in Eastport prior to the events.

The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop is organized and sponsored by the Tides Institute & Museum of Art. Additional funding for 2013 has been donated by Emera Maine.