The Midcoast’s own “First Night” celebration is back for a 21st edition. New Year’s by the Bay begins Sunday afternoon, Dec. 31, and runs into the wee hours of the new year. Volunteer-run and community-supported, New Year’s by the Bay offers music, dancing, poetry, stories, magic and a couple of specialized drawing events, all — well, all but one — within downtown walking distance. It ends with a bonfire on the beach, lighting up the night with good intentions for 2018.

The annual event is pulled together by community volunteers, led by Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Community Volunteer of the Year Mary Mortier. A couple of weeks out, she was finalizing the schedule and updating the website. As far as new venues go, there are two locations at a former favorite.

“We haven't had use of the old Crosby School since its last year with owner NTWH in 2005,” Mortier said.

Now called the Crosby Center, the former school and National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped at 96 Church St. will have two spots for performances: the main stage, which recently hosted Midcoast Actors’ Studio’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”; and a smaller, more intimate theater space, making its NYBB debut.

Also premiering as a venue New Year’s Eve is the Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Labyrinth at Belfast Common Park, which will be candlelit from sundown to midnight. Strollers can enter from Miller Street at Cross or from Pearl Street to enjoy some meditative moments of peaceful reflection on the last night of this tumultuous year.

Several bands new to the annual festivities will perform this year, including the final dance setmeisters at the Belfast Boathouse, on the harbor at the foot of Commercial Street. The 11-member Right Track Band has a real horn section and makes music for partner dancing of all kinds (also fine for on-your-own boogie-ing); and the Fremont Street String Band will play foot stompin’ bluegrass and folk tunes for late night dancing. Also new this year is Rockport family bluegrass band Miners Creek; and Jonesville, the Midcoast duo of husband and wife Ann and Barry Brindle.

Popular performers returning after a NYBB break are the Blue Hill Brass, Leaky Boot Jug Band, Ameranouche (premiering a new lineup), Ellacapella; and caricature artist PJ Carter. The rest of the schedule is filled with perennial favorites.

Free stuff for all ages

Every year, New Year’s by the Bay offers several free activities, in addition to all the button-admission shows. The first scheduled activity Sunday is the annual open house at the Belfast Curling Club, 211 Belmont Ave../Route 3. From 2 to 4 p.m., everyone is invited through the club’s doors free of charge to learn about one of the world’s oldest team sports.

Curling originated in the 16th-century in Scotland, where games were played during winter on frozen ponds and lochs. A Curling Club member will describe and explain the game as it’s being played; there will be three games going, so people can watch and learn about this winter sport. Belfast Curling Club is located about two and half miles west of the routes 1 and 3 intersection, and while there is an ice “sheet,” the club is a warm, safe place for kids and families.

Local storyteller, singer/songwriter and poet Jennifer Armstrong offers traditional stories and songs for youngsters, as well as crankie drawing, from 3 to 3:45 p.m. in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. Founder of the annual  Waldo County Pie & Story Festival, Armstrong has been performing and educating in schools for decades, has been heard on National Public Radio and has a show on Belfast Community TV. A crankie is an old storytelling art form that includes a long, illustrated scroll wound between two spools and loaded into a box with a viewing screen. The scroll is hand-cranked while a story is told or sung.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the age spectrum, New Year’s by the Bay and the Parks and Recreation Department join forces to present the annual Special Seniors Event from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Boathouse. Miners Creek provides the music and Parks and Recreation brings on the refreshments during this free year-end celebration.

Walking the aforementioned Labyrinth is free, as is participation in the annual procession of the Drum & Rabble Corps at the other end of the Eve. Everyone is invited to gather from 11:30 to 11:50 p.m. at the traffic light corner of Main and High streets — bring a drum, sticks, pots and pans, tin cans, lids or noisemakers. Paraders walk down to the waterfront for the NYBB-capping countdown and Bonfire by the Bay. No admission buttons are necessary to send off 2017 in a Waterfront Pier blaze, and Little River Church will be serving free hot cocoa.

Ya gotta eat …

New Year’s by the Bay is, in First Night tradition, a chem-free celebration. In addition to local businesses signed on as chem-free food vendors — Bay Wrap and Alexia’s Pizza (noon to 9 p.m.) and the Belfast Co-op Café (noon to 8 p.m.) — several performance venues will be selling hearty fare to fuel the festivities from 5 to 9 p.m. At the First Church UCC Hall, behind the main church at Court and Spring streets and up the stairs, there will be full dinners featuring pork or vegetarian lasagna. On the first floor of the UU Church, 37 Miller St., there will be homemade soups and more. And in the first-floor vestry of First Baptist Church, 95 High St., there will be dinners of homemade hot foods and more.

NYBB 2018 Headquarters is the Parent Gallery, 92 Main St. — at the corner of High and Main streets at the downtown traffic light (opposite Alexia’s Pizza). It’s open noon to 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve for volunteer and performer check-in; and helpful assistance to the public — schedules, questions or directions. Buttons, which grant admission to performances, are $20; $5 for youth age 6 to 18; and free for younger children. They can be purchased online up until noon and picked up at HQ; purchased in advance there, at Belfast Co-op and Fireside Inn & Suite’s Ocean’s Edge; or purchased at most performance venues during the evening, until sold out.

Following are this year’s button-admission events, listed by venue; sets run 45 minutes, unless otherwise noted. The complete schedule and more details are on the event’s website.

New Year’s by the Bay 2018

• Belfast Co-op Café, 123 High St.

4 p.m.: Shana Hanson plays Eastern European folk fiddle tunes.

5 p.m.: Ezra Rugg plays stand-up bass instrumentals.

6:15 and 7 p.m.: Juliane Gardner and Chris Poulin play half-hour sets of jazz and blues.

First Church UCC sanctuary, 104 Church St.

5 p.m.: Belfast Bay Fiddlers plays music in the New England contra dance tradition.

6, 8 and 10 p.m.: The Katahdin Valley Boys play traditional bluegrass.

7, 9 and 11 p.m.: Blue Hill Brass is a festival favorite all around the state.

First Church UCC Parish Hall, 108 Court St.

5 and 6 p.m.: John & Sandy Cameron sing and play favorites while diners fill the kitchen-end of the second-floor hall.

7:15 and 8:15 p.m.: The Pinwheel Brothers  offer acoustic originals, folk, rock and bluegrass.

UU Church Sanctuary, 37 Miller St.

5 and 6 p.m.: Lincoln Blake plays piano jazz and American standards.

7 and 9 p.m.: Mes Amis plays Gypsy jazz.

8 and 10 p.m.: New Shades of Blue fuses jazz, blues, originals and even reggae.

• First Baptist Church Sanctuary, 95 High St.

5 and 7 p.m: Ellacapella mixes multi-layered harmonies and spunk.

6, 9 and 11 p.m.: Ameranouche offers guitar-forward, award-winning Gypsy jazz, flamenco and swing.

8 and 10 p.m.: Jonesville performs intimate to rocking acoustic favorites, from Adele to Zeppelin.

The Crosby Center, 96 Church St.

5 p.m.: Belfast Poet Laureate Thomas Moore and poet colleagues read in the small theater.

6 p.m.: Shana Hanson and friends play, and dance to, Eastern European folk tunes in the small theater.

7 and 9 p.m.: Bob Lloyd presents magic, juggling and illusion on the main theater stage.

8 and 10 p.m.: Leaky Boot Jug Band plays blues, Americana, old-timey tunes and bluegrass on the main theater stage.

• The Boathouse, 34 Commercial St.

5:15 to 6:30 p.m.: Steelin' Thunder, the Midcoast’s own community steel drum band, brings an island vibe to New Year’s Eve.

7 to 8:30 p.m.: Local rockers Captain Obvious heat up the dance floor.

9 to 10:30 p.m.: The Right Track Band serves up funky soul and R&B, aided and abetted by horns.

10:30 p.m. to midnight: Fremont Street String Band brings Downeast bluegrass and folk to the dance floor.

Belfast Free Library’s Abbott Room, 106 High St.

6 p.m.: Midcoast Ukes gather community ukulele strummers for a fun, interactive set.

7 p.m.: Jennifer Armstrong offers folk songs, fiddle and banjo tunes, plus a sing-along.

8 and 10 p.m.: Meteora plays folk ballads and originals.

9 and 11 p.m.: The Lowdown is back with fun, unusual, often humorous, songs.

New Year’s by the Bay works in partnership with Our Town Belfast, the city of Belfast and Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as community volunteers, sponsors and performers. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to contact Mortier at 323-1748 or

In addition to Hartdale Maps map and schedule found online and locally, this year’s New Year’s by the Bay has a Smart DataMap Services smartphone option at