A New Year’s celebration returns to Carteret County with a new name and an expanded lineup of activities intended to bring out an off-season crowd.
Six Carteret County towns are hosting the Crystal Coast Countdown, which made its debut last year as Crystal Coast First Night.
The new name is a fitting one with a line-up of five days of activities leading up to Jan. 1.
The celebration begins Friday and includes a variety of activities at each of the host towns, including music, storytelling, dance groups, tours and art competitions.
The idea is to bring the county together and offer a variety of activities that local residents, as well as visitors to the area, can enjoy for the New Year’s holiday.
"There’s something for everyone. We’re doing what we can as a collaborative group to bring people to Carteret County," said Alesia Sanderson, Emerald Isle parks and recreation director, while announcing the upcoming events at a recent Emerald Isle meeting.
The towns of Emerald Isle, Newport and Pine Knoll Shores joined Morehead City, Atlantic Beach and Beaufort for this year’s event.
Director Silvana Botta said they hope to see the event continue to grow in the coming years to include even more communities.
"Our goal is to be a countywide event, and we’re getting there," Botta said.
Two years ago, Morehead City Mayor Jerry Jones and Planning Director Linda Staab were talking to each other about the need for a New Year’s Eve event and from there an impromptu Crab Pot Drop was organized.
The community response led to the organization of last year’s event, which saw considerable success.
The highlight of the event is the New Year’s Eve countdown to the New Year; and this year, the kids get to ring in 2013 a little early.
Beaufort is featuring a Pirate’s Drop at 7 p.m. on Front Street for an early New Year’s Eve celebration and then the countdown to midnight moves to the Katherine Davis Park in Morehead City for the midnight Crab Pot Drop. Fireworks will follow the Crab Pot Drop.
Last year, several thousand gathered in downtown Morehead City for the arrival of 2012.
"We had 3,500 people on Evans Street at midnight," Botta said.
Botta said activities at last year’s event saw increased participation and they hope that is the case again this year.
The Resolution Run sponsored by the Town of Beaufort had 178 registered, and the New Year’s Day Penguin Plunge in Atlantic Beach about doubled in participation with 800 participants.
"We see it as a countywide family affair for everyone," Botta said.
Jones said it brings the community together and is also a way to attract people to Carteret County this time of year, including its many second homeowners.
"The Crystal Coast isn’t just a summer place," he said.
The fun begins Friday and there are opportunities for kayak tours at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, a scavenger hunt along Emerald Isle’s multi-use path and Bon Fire at the Beach at the Atlantic Beach Circle.
Through New Year’s Eve, there is music with a reggae concert in Emerald Isle, and Pickin’ and Grinnin’ in Newport. There will be children’s crafts at the train depot in Morehead City, activities at the N.C. Maritime Museum and tours at the Beaufort Historic Site.
After the New Year’s Eve fun, the New Year starts with a Guided First Hike at Fort Macon, a sand sculpture contest in Atlantic Beach and a dip in the ocean during the annual Penguin Plunge at the Atlantic Beach Circle.
For more information, go online to crystalcoastcountdown.com.