BANGOR, Maine — Hundreds of people gathered in West Market Square on Saturday night to say farewell to 2016 and ring in the new year during the annual ball drop that capped off Downtown Countdown, the city’s signature New Year’s Eve celebration.
Joining in on the fun were the Martin sisters — Laura of Bar Harbor and Rachel of Bangor.
The chance to ring in 2017 with family and friends is what brought the sisters to downtown Bangor, they said.
“This was the closest thing that was happening for New Year’s Eve, so here we are,” Laura Martin said, adding that her group had been around since early evening hitting the downtown pubs.
“But it’s [been] very stuffy and very intimate,” she said of the elbow-to-elbow crowds that packed downtown’s restaurants and bars. She also was debating whether to spend the night in Bangor or make the drive back to Bar Harbor, as snow had begun to fall Saturday evening.
Rachel Martin, who has watched the Christmas light-covered beach ball get heaved off the top of the Paddy Murphy’s building before, was unfazed by the snow.
“I like the weather and the ambiance. Every bar has outside seating right now,” she said of the tables and chairs at which revelers were seated while waiting for midnight — and the new year — to arrive.
Some of those who spilled into West Market Square were somewhat underdressed for the weather, including several women in high-heeled shoes and short dresses and one young man who was shirtless.
Attending the ball drop for the first time was Beth Blanchard of Eddington, who turned up with her boyfriend, Tyler Elsenheimer, and her younger brother, Josh Blanchard, who wore shorts and a hooded sweatshirt to the event.
“It’s my first time coming here for the ball drop,” she said. “I didn’t even know it was snowing until we opened up the door.”
This year’s countdown lineup began early in the morning with the Epic 5K Finale Road Race and continued through the day with children’s activities at the Maine Discovery Museum, yoga sessions at the Brick Church, storytime at the Briar Patch bookstore, a family-style New Year’s Eve party at Bangor Public Library, and dancing, live music and performances at venues throughout downtown.
The ball drop, arguably the high point of the night, drew hundreds to West Market Square. This year’s turnout appeared smaller than last year’s, likely because of the snow, which fell heavily at times.
As forecast by t he National Weather Service, Greater Bangor got about 4 inches of fresh snow from Saturday evening into early Sunday morning.
The scene at West Market Square on Saturday night was starkly different from a year ago, when the temperatures were in the 30s and it was warm enough that revelers enjoyed food and drinks at tables on the sidewalk outside of some of Broad Street’s bars and eateries.
While only 2 to 4 inches were predicted for the Down East and midcoast areas, Wesley in Washington County wound up with 6½ inches, and Ellsworth and Mariaville in Hancock County got more than 5 inches. Most spots in Aroostook County got the 1 to 3 inches of snow forecast for them, the weather service said Sunday.
The low-pressure system that arrived on New Year’s Eve — called an “Alberta clipper” — formed in Alberta in western Canada and caused temperatures to plunge into the teens.