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New Year's Eve Celebrated with 5th Annual Sardine Drop
Bill Schaefer of East Machias, Maine with the New Year's Eve Sardine at the Tides Institute in Eastport. Photo: Hugh French.
EASTPORT, ME.- The 5th Annual Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop will ring in the New Year in Eastport, Maine! The city and surrounding area will again celebrate New Year’s Eve by lowering a giant sardine and maple leaf from the top floor of the Tides Institute and Museum of Art (TIMA) into the heart of the city’s downtown public space, Bank Square. The event is featured on line in the December 17, 2009, Travel Section of MSNBC as one of 10 of America’s most off beat holiday celebrations. [Click through to number 9 to view the listing: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34386513/ns/travel-seasonal/?pg=9 - Travel_OffbeatHolidayCelebrations_Baskas]

With Eastport poised just west of the Atlantic Time zone—the Canadian islands of Deer Island and Campobello are located just off shore in Passamaqoddy Bay—the usual one time celebration is held twice to accommodate neighbors and friends, making it that much more fun. First to drop is the bright red ‘Maple Leaf' which makes its descent at midnight Atlantic Time, or 11:00 pm Eastern. The 'Sardine' is lowered an hour later at midnight Eastern Time.

Music for the evening’s festivities will again feature fanfares by the brass quartet, The New Year’s Eve Brass Band, organized by singersongwriter and musician, Rafi Hopkins. Announcing the descents of both the Maple Leaf and Sardine, the band adds a momentous flourish to the occasion. The crowd has spontaneously burst into ‘O Canada’ during the Maple Leaf’s descent, and line dancing with the ‘Sardine’ has occurred after the drop and before the night is over. If last year’s post drop revels are any indication, couples and groups taking photos with, and even kissing, the lowered Sardine may becoming an annual tradition.

The Tides Institute hosts the event each year, lowering the fish from its third story window. The former Eastport Savings Bank, built in1887, is a National Register of Historic Places anchor property in downtown Eastport. Open year round, TIMA serves as a cultural catalyst and exhibition space, curating three to four new exhibitions each year, as well as presenting works from its permanent collections, which focus on the international Passamaquoddy region and the broader U.S./Canada northeast coast.

The origins of the drop go back to 2004 when there was a suggestion for some kind of community celebration at the end of the year. The choice of the sardine as an icon was in acknowledgement of the former herring fishing and canning industry of an earlier era.

Sculptor, Bill Schaefer, of East Machias, has created the current fish, which has a bent wood frame and is stretched with canvas. To offer a more authentic rendition, he painted the sardine in a 'contemporary realism' style to look like it was caught fresh from the Atlantic. Schaefer, who donated his time to make both the maple leaf and fish, says this was one of the more interesting projects he’s worked on. The white cedar for construction of the frame was generously donated by David Yates of Yates Sawmill in Lubec.

To add to the celebration, a number of dining establishments including the Rose Garden Café, Happy Crab and Pickled Herring are offering dinner specials and entertainment. Downtown businesses and galleries will be open during the day and early evening with The Commons open until midnight. A list of accommodations, food and drink, and downtown shops open and their hours for the day and end of year occasion are posted at the Tides Institute web site: http://www.tidesinstitute.org

For more info on the Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop visit the web site or contact the Tides Institute at (207) 853-4047. To make reservations for lodging or meals contact participating establishments directly.



Tides Institute and Museum of Art | 5th Annual Sardine Drop | Bill Schaefer |


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