Whether you’re looking for family-friendly entertainment or some adults-only reverie on New Year’s Eve, there are lots of options around the Portland area. From local bars and restaurants to surrounding towns, the Portland Pirates’ Kids’ New Year’s Game and L.L. Bean’s music and fireworks extravaganza in Freeport, you can welcome 2011 almost anywhere.

Anywhere, that is, except the streets of downtown Portland.

Maine’s largest city hasn’t held a New Year’s Eve party since 2005. At the time, organizers said they were taking a year off to find a corporate sponsor.

Apparently, they stopped trying.

Granted, it can be expensive to host an outdoor New Year’s bash. But other, smaller towns are doing it, including Gorham, Belfast, Bangor and Old Orchard Beach.

In fact, OOB’s inaugural First Night event last year was so successful, it’s coming back for a second go-round. First Night Portland seems like a no-brainer, what with the city’s dense concentration of art galleries, museums, performing arts venues, bars and restaurants.

Instead, there will be the sound of crickets chirping on the streets of the Old Port and downtown Portland. Check that — it’s too cold for crickets, so there won’t even be that.

It wasn’t always thus. New Year’s Portland, which launched in 1984, used to average 10,000 revelers a year. There were music and dance performances, art shows and films, ice sculptures, two — yes, two — parades, and a fireworks show. Local businesses and arts organizations stayed open late to allow the throng to come inside and warm up, and maybe even do a little shopping.

You know — infuse some money into the local economy.

Some say the city’s efforts to make New Year’s Eve a family-friendly event during the last few years of its existence caused it to fizzle and die. Although I wasn’t here at the time, I can understand that. Who wants to go home before midnight on New Year’s Eve?

But if that’s still a concern, why not have two events? There could be a family-friendly one in the early afternoon and an adults-only one in the evening. Charge separate admission for each, and require that anyone who wants to drink at the evening festival buy a special wrist band that requires the purchaser to show an I.D. Other festivals around the nation have done this for years.

Or maybe Portland should do away with the family-friendly concept altogether and stick with a late-night party. There would still be plenty for children to do during the day, such as the balloon drop at the Children’s Museum and the annual Phyzgig vaudeville show at Portland Stage and Space Gallery.

Just do something.

City officials have 12 months to plan next year’s New Year’s Eve. Let’s hope they don’t waste it.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]


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