BELFAST, Maine — Regardless of precipitation or plunging thermometers, on New Year’s Eve the streets of Belfast will be made warm by camaraderie, as hordes of holiday-makers roam around looking for music events, food, dancing and fun during the 16th annual New Year’s By the Bay celebration.
Last year, nearly 2,000 people came out for the event, which begins in the afternoon and stretches until after 1 a.m. in a dozen venues throughout the midcoast city, according to long-time organizer Mary Mortier.
This year, she’s looking forward to musical performances that include gypsy jazz, traditional Irish instrumentalists, free children’s performances at the Colonial Theatre and, of course, the annual trek to the harbor by the Drum & Rabble Corps.
“It’s a hoot,” Mortier said. “It’s a combination of professional drummers and the public at large, encouraged to bring anything they can to make noise. It’s a very primal feeling, the drum-beating that accompanies the rabble march down the hill, and it continues for a good long while. It’s very quirky. You can hear the drumbeat wafting through downtown.”
The drummers and revelers will head to a tall bonfire constructed by the bay, which will be torched to mark the new year.
“It’s so Belfast,” she said.
In addition to the marching drummers and the fun party by the bonfire, Mortier said that she’s looking forward to catching as many of the performances as possible. Those include the gypsy jazz Ameranouche Trio, slated to play at 9 p.m. at the First Baptist Church.
“They excel at a style of jazz that not that many musicians in the area perform,” she said. “They are perfectionists at what they do. It’s absolute poetry. It’s mesmerizing.”
Mortier noted that last year the local dance band The Hips packed the house, and will make a return trip to the Belfast Boathouse from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. They’ll be followed by the blues dance band The Bad Daddys, which will rock the Belfast Boathouse from 10 p.m. to midnight. She also expects that local favorite the Gawler Family will be a crowd-pleaser during a 10 p.m. show at the First Church sanctuary, as will the Leaky Boot Jug Band, which will play beginning at 8 p.m. at the First Baptist Church.
“They are excellent musicians and fun. You want to tap your feet,” Mortier said of the acoustic blues and bluegrass music.
The free children’s performances at the Colonial start at 3 p.m. and will include a magician, a mime, a balloon show and storyteller and musician Jennifer Armstrong. People also will be able to learn about the ice game curling at the Belfast Curling Club from 3 to 5 p.m., and take free horse and wagon rides starting from Church Street near Spring Street from 3 to 9 p.m.
Food options include a robust New Year’s Eve breakfast that will be served from 9 p.m. – midnight at the First Church Hall, a variety of soups from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Miller Street and homemade beef stew and chili from 5 to 11 p.m. at the First Baptist Church on High Street.
“All the food at the event is priced very kindly,” Mortier said.
For admission to the chem-free New Year’s Eve celebration, adults will pay $18, students k-12 will pay $5 and there is no charge for children under 5. For more information, please visit the website www.nybb.org. Admission buttons will be sold ahead of time online or at the Parent Gallery, the Belfast Co-op, Comfort Inn Ocean’s Edge or the service desk of Hannaford.