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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: December 23, 2015

New Year’s Eve events for families and the early-to-bed set in the Greater Portland area

Written by: Ray Routhier
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There’s a misconception out there that early New Year’s Eve events are just for tiny tots, who can’t stay up past their bedtimes.

Well, the truth of the matter is there are lots of us who find it pretty tough to stay up past midnight and party on into the New Year. Mainers are known for their early bedtimes, after all.


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Thankfully, there are plenty of family events on New Year’s Eve in Greater Portland. Some are in the afternoon, some are in the early evening. Some may even last until midnight, if you want to stay that late. But you don’t have to.

Here then are some ideas for how to usher in the New Year next Thursday and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.

NEW YEAR’S AT NOON

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, 142 Free St., Portland, 10 a.m. to noon, $10. kitetails.org

This event gives children the opportunity to count down to the New Year like grown-ups do. Except at the Children’s Museum the countdown is at 12 noon, not 12 midnight. Children are invited to wear pajamas. At noon there will be a balloon drop, with hundreds of balloons, followed by lots of popping sounds. Balloon popping that is.

The event is free with museum admission, so children can explore the whole place before and after the countdown. Permanent exhibits for playing and exploring include replicas of a fire truck, car repair shop, lobster boat, farm, market, ranger station, space ship and diner.

FAMILY CONTRA DANCE

Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., free. portlandlibrary.com

The library will hold its second annual family contra dance on New Year’s Eve. Caller and teacher Maggie Robinson will explain the basics of the dance, and local musicians, including at least one fiddler, will play the lively tunes. In a contra dance, dancers stand in parallel lines opposite, or contra, to one another. The caller then guides the dancers through various steps. The music can include Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian folk tunes. The dance will be in the Sam L. Cohen Children’s Library.

Children’s singer Rick Charette performs at 5:15 p.m. at L.L. Bean in Freeport.

Children’s singer Rick Charette performs at 5:15 p.m. at L.L. Bean in Freeport.

KIDNIGHT

L.L. Bean, 95 Main St., Freeport, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free. llbean.com

The retail giant throws a pretty nice New Year’s Eve party for kids each year, at the flagship store and in Discovery Park. The indoor activities, where space can be limited for some performances, start at 11 a.m. with magician Phil Smith, who performs again at 1 p.m. The juggling act Double or Nothing performs at noon and 2 p.m. An art-making session takes place at 3:45 p.m.

Beloved Maine children’s singer Rick Charette performs outdoors at 5:15 p.m., followed by fireworks around 6 p.m.

If you stick around later than that, you can see the outdoor musical holiday light show every half-hour until 9 p.m., in which lights all over the L.L. Bean campus are synchronized to music.

NEW YEAR’S BELL RINGING

Bath City Hall, 55 Front St., 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., free. visitbath.com

People use the term “ring in the New Year” all the time, but how many people actually do it? Well, folks in Bath actually do it, and in style. Every year people gather at Bath’s City Hall to sing “Auld Lang Syne” and listen to the ringing of the city’s Paul Revere bell, at noon.

The version of “Auld Lang Syne” sung has been specially adapted for Bath, with references to the city and the bell. People are invited to bring party hats and noisemakers.

NEW YEAR’S PLANETARIUM

Southworth Planetarium at the University of Southern Maine, 70 Falmouth St., Portland, 6:30 p.m. to midnight, $7 suggested donation. usm.maine.edu/planet

Here’s a deal: $7 to watch eight different presentations at the Southworth Planetarium. Talk about a spacey way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Some are 15 minutes or less, like “The Winter Night Sky Tour” and some take up the better part of an hour, like “Dinosaurs at Dusk.” Then at 11:55 p.m., if you choose to stay that late, you can watch the countdown from Times Square in New York City on the planetarium’s dome.

Yarmouth’s Clam Drop happens at 7 p.m.

Yarmouth’s Clam Drop happens at 7 p.m.

CLAM DROP

First Universalist Church, 97 Main St., Yarmouth, 7 p.m., free. uuyarmouth.org

New York’s got nothing on Yarmouth. To celebrate the turning over of the calendar, people in the Big Apple drop a sparkling ball from a tall building. Big deal. In Yarmouth, they gently lower a festive facsimile of a smiling clam from atop the First Universalist Church. It’s actually Steamer, the long-time mascot of Yarmouth’s wildly popular summer Clam Festival.

Yarmouth is part of a proud and recent tradition in small-town America of dropping symbols of civic pride to celebrate New Year’s Eve. In Eastport, they’ve lowered a giant sardine in celebration. The folks in Mobile, Alabama have dropped a 12-foot Moon Pie. And people in Plymouth, Wisconsin have been known to drop an 80-pound hunk of Styrofoam resembling a wedge of cheese.

At the Yarmouth event, there will also be cookies, cocoa and music.

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