Downtown Countdown ...

PRINCETON — Brilliant electric colors, street performers, local musicians performing at multiple venues, a new outdoor concert, artists and more filled Mercer Street with festivities on New Year’s Eve while the annual Downtown Countdown said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed the first minutes of 2019.

The sixth annual Downtown Countdown built on experiences and lessons learned from the previous New Year’s Eve celebrations, Lori McKinney of the Princeton Renaissance Project said.

“It gets bigger every year. We definitely learn every year,” McKinney stated while she helped make the final preparations. “A lot of the new activities came directly from feedback from the surveys last year, and we’re really happy about that. We have new structured kids activities and games, and craft activities for the kids, particularly teenagers will be happy. There’s an outdoor performance on the stage which is brand new. A lot of people requested that, so it might feel a little bit more like Times Square this year.”

Out on the Dick Copeland Town Square stage, the band Allthebestkids were tuning up their instruments and making sure a light curtain was ready to deliver colorful displays when the Princeton Fire Department lowered the reflective ball as the final seconds of 2018 ticked by. The sound of “Old Lang Syne” was heard up and down Mercer Street as the guitars were getting tuned up.

Musician Cody Valentine of Allthebestkids frequently went behind the light curtain to adjust the sound equipment. New Year’s Eve 2018 wasn’t his first visit to the area or Mercer Streets music venues.

“I was born in Georgia, but I live in (Washington) D.C. now,” he said while his fellow musicians continued their preparations. “I’ve been here a few times. Last year in the summer, 2017, we played the Room Upstairs. Such a sweet night, sweet night. We play Culture Fest two years in a row. Last year at Culture Fest, I finished building this light curtain, and I think Lori really liked it, so they wanted us to bring it here and do the countdown on it. It’s a lot of really fun energy.”

Valentine said he enjoyed performing in Mercer County and West Virginia as a whole.

“I absolutely love West Virginia. I love playing in Princeton, all the people are so just so enthusiastic about our music and they’re happy,” Valentine stated, adding that he got a lot of positive responses when he announced that the band would be playing during the Downtown Countdown.

Musical groups such as the Travers Brothership, Tim Maggie, Cassie Raye, The Change, Ashley Surface, James Hart, Je’dah Palmer, and The Poor Taters performed throughout the night. Dreama Denver of the Denver Foundation listened to Surface perform as the evening progressed.

“I think this is an event that Princeton can really be proud of,” Denver said as the music played. “The work put in by Llynium Entertainment and the Princeton Renaissance Project, the work they put into it, is phenomenal . This year the Denver Foundation is proud to be sponsoring the entertainment for the Downtown Countdown, and we’re so proud to do it.”

Out on Mercer Street, local artists were displaying their works and, in some cases, giving public demonstrations of the creative process. Issac Preston of Bluefield was demonstrating his use of recycled materials when he set up is New Year’s Eve Tree. Silvery hard drive platters, wires, metal snare drum rings, a big light globe and other items destined for a trash can were turned into art.

“I do my best to use recycled materials,” Preston said. “The overall theme is to make people aware of how much we waste.”

As the evening progressed and midnight approached, Greg Puckett of the Princeton Renaissance Project set up some cornhole games on the street. There were some cooling winds, but temperatures stayed unseasonably warm throughout much of the night. Visitors roamed the street and headed to and from the local businesses offering music and other activities.

“We’re 30 minutes into the event and several hundred people are on site,” he said. “It’s a great crowd.”

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com