By Michael Candelario
New Year’s Eve is almost upon us and Carteret County is gearing up for the event of the year – the Crystal Coast Countdown. The Countdown, which runs from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1, features events for all ages spanning the entire county.
“We’re unique because we celebrate throughout the county,” Silvana Botta, the event’s chief coordinator, explained. “More municipalities join every year. We have events from Emerald Isle to Harker’s Island.”
This is no mere boast or hyperbole from the Countdown’s coordinator. To kick off the celebration, Emerald Isle’s Parks and Recreation will hold a scavenger hunt at 10am on Wednesday, Dec. 30 along their multi-use path. Participants will search for specified items along the path and in neighboring business areas and will have to return by 1pm to claim special prizes.
On the same day, on Harkers Island, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center will host an interactive art project called the Scrap Exchange. From noon until 4pm participants will have access to a vast array of eco-friendly, recycled objects which they can use to design new inventions, build musical instruments or make creative and alluring art to take home with them. Teresa Everett, science educator at the museum, explained the purpose of the Scrap Exchange: “We provide a chance for kids to use their imagination and math and science skills… They get to find a new use for things.” Celebrants are sure to see the symbolism in the New Year’s event – they’ll begin 2016 by reminding themselves to take the old scraps that 2015 has given them and change them into new and exciting artwork for the new year.
Festivities aren’t limited to just the ends of the county, either. Morehead City and Beaufort will host a number of events during the Countdown as well. Participants will be able to take tours of the port (ID and RSVP required), make musical instruments at Teacher’s Pet, paint at BluSail Gallery, or learn the Pirate’s Way at The History Place.
In Atlantic Beach, there will be a bonfire gathering on Dec. 30 from 6 to 9pm. The festivities will feature live music as well. On the morning of Jan. 1, there will be a guided hike across Fort Macon State Park. Participants will explore the area with the assistance of a park ranger. Daring Countdown participants can even take part in the Penguin Plunge – a cold dip into the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for charity. This year, funds are being raised for The Loaves and Fishes program.
Beaufort is hosting many events over the course of the Countdown, including double-decker bus tours, marshmallows and resolutions at John Newton Park, a Sea Hunt at the NC Maritime Museum and the Resolution Run, which encourages good health by starting out the new year with a 1-mile run.
For those celebrants with young children, the Countdown will feature early festivities to ring in the New Year before bed time. The Carteret Community Theater will host an early Crab Pot Drop between 2-4pm with interactive juggling and other live performances as well as face-painting.
“[Emerald Isle] will also be doing fireworks and a Shamrock Drop at 9pm at Bogue Inlet pier,” said Alesia Sanderson, director of Parks and Recreation for Emerald Isle. The large, lit shamrock will symbolize the town’s famous St. Patrick’s Festival.
As a special treat this year, Countdown participants can make use of ferry services over to Cape Lookout on Friday, Jan. 1 to scale the lighthouse on its 50th anniversary.
Of course, the main event will be the Crab Pot Drop at Katherine Davis Park in Morehead City. Participants will see live performances by the Beaufort Blues Project and Straits Haven before witnessing a crab pot eight times larger than normal – and filled with fake crabs, according to Silvana Botta – drop down at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks will be ignited to start the New Year as well.
The Crystal Coast Countdown will feature events from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1. For a full list of events and information, visit www.CrystalCoastCountdown.com.