FEATURED COLUMN by John McDonald: Happy New Year!

By John McDonald

I got a Christmas card the other day from some distant relatives up-country. The way I look at it, any relative you have to drive over four hours just to visit is a distant relative — even if they’re a brother or first cousin.
For the past several years these relatives have been including a nice letter in their card to let friends and relatives down state know about all the exciting things that have gone on in town over the past year.

You have to understand that “exciting” as it’s used here is a relative term (no pun intended) because the town I come from — the town these relatives write about in their letter — was never known as a good place to go if you’re looking for excitement.
A tourist once asked a resident of the town what he did for excitement, and he said “To tell you the truth, Mister, I’ve never been excited.” In fact, the town manager has a little sign on the wall behind his desk that says “So little time; so little to do!”
According to this latest Christmas letter, 2018 started off with a bang and everyone for miles around drove over to Wytopitlock for their big New Year’s celebration. The slogan for the event was “Make the Wonder of Wytopitlock part of your family’s New Year!” and they say it’s the biggest night of the year. Now, that clever slogan probably wouldn’t be enough to get me to drive more than 100 miles round trip on roads filled with tipsy revelers, but it seems to work for the people up that way.
Imitating the big cities, the folks in Wytopitlock cap off their New Year’s celebration with a big show in the Grange Hall on Main Street, and they pack that place right up to the rafters. They say there were cars parked along both sides of Main Street for over a mile. Like I said, normally the idea of driving over to Witipitlock is not my idea of how fun times begin, but friends and relatives who’ve been to it say this first-night event is worth the trip — even to Witipitlock.
The featured performer was supposed to be the magician from Waterville. No one knew much about him but the committee members said he had a friendly agent and an impressive brochure and everyone figured if he’s from Waterville he must be pretty good, right? Well, I guess he wasn’t all that impressive. Some in the audience thought the most impressive thing he did was find his way from Waterville to Wytopitlock.
The crowd’s favorite performer by quite a margin was Alton Peasley from neighboring Passadumkeg who, for his big finish, juggled six flaming, double-edged axes while carving a large chunk of ice into a moose and a lobster. During his big finale, as a local musician played “Lady of Spain” on the accordion, Peasley juggled and carved and two-stepped all around the stage to thunderous applause.
Everyone was so absorbed in the drama of the moment they hardly noticed the EMTs arriving to transport the injured in the front row. In fact, some thought the EMTs were just part of the finale. Fortunately there weren’t too many serious injuries and most of the injured were treated and released.
As per Maine statutes that regulate artistic performances, there were several clogging groups, 11 or 12 Country and Western bands, and for the real “arty set,” a mime.
The whole thing was over and done with by 8:30 p.m., and the town was completely deserted by nine o’clock. Even on New Year’s Eve, folks up that way figure you’re only looking for trouble if you’re still driving around after nine at night.
Even though the show lost money, local sponsors say they plan to do it again. If I didn’t see you this New Year’s Eve in Wytopitlock, I hope your New Year is a happy one.

To contact John, call 207-240-8324 or email maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com.