Downtown Princeton, WV, is blossoming with creativity, and every year on New Year’s Eve, it is absolutely electrified with a dynamic celebration that has quickly become a cornerstone holiday tradition. A multi-stage music and arts festival complete with fire dancers, ice sculptors, games, crafts, activities, live art demonstrations and more culminates with a countdown ball drop and a spectacular fireworks display at the stroke of midnight. The LED lights from the trees and the laser light beams glow on this charming main street arts district.
Photo courtesy of Richard Hypes
The town prides itself on having people in the streets, enjoying the celebration rather than watching other people having fun on television in New York City like tradition has dictated in the past. The people of Princeton are excited to be alive, signifying a new era for the colorful town, which is starting to be defined by its vibrant creative community.
Many of the indoor venues that feature entertainment for the Downtown Countdown event are a unique experience unto themselves. The Room Upstairs, which will host West Virginia favorite Fletcher’s Grove this year, is a turn-of-the-century ballroom turned small theater with beautiful pressed tin ceilings, comfortable couches and a Bohemian vibe. The Turnaround Concert & Gathering Hall is an elegant space featuring skylights and balconies, and it will host Charleston party band The Carpenter Ants with a special opening set by the teenage rock stars The Change, who are key figures in the Princeton renaissance.
Next door, a vacant storefront will become a comedy club by hosting the Mountain State’s premier comedy troupe, The Fearless Fools. In the back, the bartender will serve up complimentary hot chocolate. Next door in the gallery of The RiffRaff Arts Collective, Tim & Maggie Mainland will entertain guests with lively folk music, and across the street at Gary Bowling’s House of Art, guitarist Eduardo Canelon will play while guests mingle and enjoy the spectacle.
Photo courtesy of Richard Hypes
Outdoors on the town square stage, deejays will play dance music for guests while they enjoy the sparkling ball hovering 100 feet above the scene. The event will also feature meaningful community art projects in which guests can participate. For example, a wish tree was beautifully crafted by a local artist, so guests can write their wishes for the New Year on colored paper and hang them on its branches. This year, attendees can also write what they wish to let go of from 2016 and throw it into a fire pit. There will be a scavenger hunt to discover all the arts’ district holds, a treasure hunt and a special “Below Zero Chill Zone” heated tent for teens. The iconic murals painted on the sides of buildings will be aglow, and a general feeling of excitement will ignite the air on this extraordinary night on the town.
A variety of groups come together to make this event happen. The Princeton Fire Department hoists up the ball, which was created by a talented artist and a dozen volunteers; musicians and artists entertain and create a magical atmosphere; scores of volunteers lend their time and the business community rallies their support.
This is a spectacular event for the whole family and an opportunity to make magical memories and a truly special tradition. Visit downtowncountdown.org for more information.
Lori McKinney is an artist and creative community organizer in Princeton, WV. After college and a bit of world travel, her journey led her back to the Appalachian Mountains, where she is deeply fulfilled helping her hometown flourish.