PORT TOWNSEND — Crowds young and old welcomed 2018 to this Victorian city and shared in the community spirit of First Night, a celebration of art, history and tradition.
Three hours of events in Port Townsend culminated Sunday night in an anchor raising, countdown and a four-minute fireworks display that lit up the sky around Memorial Field at 9 p.m.
Bill Tenant, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society and co-emcee of the evening, was humbled by the community response.
“We’re so very pleased with the turnout. The people taking tickets believe it is probably the largest turnout ever,” he said Sunday.
“We’ve had pretty crowded venues. The raptors were very popular.
“The singalong in the [city] council chambers has been popular as has been the dancing at Pope Marine Building.
“Over at the Jefferson Community School, families are doing projects — it’s packed with people, too. Everyone is having a great time.”
Angie Bartlett, an event organizer and Jefferson County Museum of Art & History administrative assistant, said that in addition to all of the excitement, a raffle drawing was held after the fireworks.
“The winning numbers will be posted on the front door of the museum for prizes such as vintage children’s toys and gift certificates. There are many winners,” she said.
Lily Corley of Port Townsend brought her son Eden and his friend, Helios, to the event.
“New Year’s Eve is typically geared toward adults staying up till midnight and drinking champagne,” Corley said.
“It’s nice to have something oriented toward kids and families.”
Corley also thanked the organizers for the event.
“What I enjoy the most is walking around our beautiful town and being able to go back and forth into the different buildings,” Corley said.
“The activities are actually the most fun. Plus, we have a big full supemoon to light the way. It’s not raining this year.”
Museum volunteer Robin Ornelas was stationed in the Julie Marston Room at Jefferson Community School where one of the museum’s trunk shows was on display. It depicted the history of logging in Jefferson County.
“We also have art stations for making hats. We’ve supplied the forms, beads, feathers, jewels [and] puffball things, and they can decorate them any way they wish,” she said.
Eli Christofferson and his wife, Amanda, brought their children, Oliver, 4, and Clara, 2, to experience the evening’s events and to make hats.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Eli Christofferson. “The kids enjoyed the music at Elevated. We’re staying for the fireworks. They both had ice cream so they will be awake beyond 9.”
Meigan Kunz of the Port Townsend High School Interact Club showed budding scientists how bubbles turn into smoke using dry ice, dish soap and hot water.
Tomas Dagum, 9, of Lake Hills Elementary in Bellevue was mesmerized.
“This is fun. It’s smart, but dangerous because of the dry ice,” he said.
He was enjoying himself as a visitor to town over the holiday.
“This is a fantastic, amazing turnout despite the cold weather,” said Nathan Barnett, director of Olympic Peninsula Steam, a local nonprofit that promotes the history of the community.
He shared emcee duties with Tenant.
“I went down to the jail cells in City Hall to see where they are keeping the kids this year and it was packed, so packed that I didn’t get a chance to see what fun things they were doing.”
“We raise the anchor on the West Coast as they lower the ball in NYC. I think I’d rather be rising than falling,” Barnett said.
He said the anchor was created by local artist Thaddeus Jurczynski and it’s the 11th year it’s been raised on New Year’s Eve.
“Jurczynski is dressed as Krampus tonight,” he said.
“It’s an old European tradition. Consider it the anti-Santa Claus. He’s the evil troll that carries off bad children if they’ve misbehaved.”
Barnett quickly added, “There are no bad children in PT as everyone knows. This is where all the beautiful things happen.”
As the crowds grew in anticipation of the main event, 10-year-old Tallulah Sebastian and her dad, Gus Sebastian of Olympic Boat Transport & Crane, did the final check of all systems to ensure the anchor was ready for the hoist.
Jurczynski checked the attachment lines. The fireworks were ready to be lit.
The countdown began at precisely 8:59:50 pm. and the crowd kept pace with the seconds.
The fireworks launched and lit up the sky, filling the air with booms and smoke as the crowd cheered and awed.
Then, as quickly as they came, the revelers disbanded, heading home or out to more celebrations, waiting for the calendar page to turn to Jan. 1.
For everyone here, it was already the new year in Port Townsend.
Jeannie McMacken is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.