Bring it on 2015!


10 things to get excited about in the new year

We’re practically giddy for 2015.

No, strike that: We are gloriously giddy for 2015.

The next 12 months have so much to offer. For starters, it’s the year of the dirt. More specifically, for dirt appreciation.

In Maine, there will be big laughs. There will be happy hikes, a near-Bigfoot sighting, performances in the park, celebs on skis and . . . there will be stormtroopers.

Ptwoo! Ptwoo! Ptwoo!

Keep reading for 10 things that we think will make 2015 great.

You know, just in case you needed convincing beyond dirt appreciation.

1. Take a hike

Shake a leg on Jan. 1 with a First Day Hike at one of five Maine state parks: Lily Bay near Moosehead Lake, Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport, Sebago Lake, Popham Beach and Range Ponds in Poland.

In Poland, a ranger will lead a 1.5 mile hike at 12:30 p.m. Meet at the flagpole. Admission is free. Bringing someone to keep you warm is optional.

2. Getting dirty

Also starting Jan. 1: The U.N. General Assembly has named 2015 the International Year of Soils.

It might be some long-overdue love.

“People just kind of take it for granted,” said Bruce Hoskins at the University of Maine’s Analytical Lab/Maine Soil Testing Service. “It really is the foundation for all plant production, food production.”

His lab tests 15,000 samples a year from around the Northeast, making recommendations on how to optimize crop production.

Curious what’s going on in your yard? Make this the year you find out! For $15, test your soil for a nutrient analysis. For $10, run a biology test and get suggestions back on your dirt’s needs.

“(It’s a) highly diverse and highly complex microscopic ecosystem,” Hoskins said. “In every little pinch of soil you may have as many as 50 or 100 million single-cell organisms.”

Check out the Soil Science Society of America’s website for soil-centric dessert ideas (dirt pudding, dirt bike cake) and request your free “I (heart) Soil” stickers, available in 15 different languages.

Declare your adoration in Mandarin or Klingon. I kid you not.

3. Hockey (again)!

The L-A Fighting Spirit will kick off its inaugural season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee next September. Can’t wait? The junior hockey team will also play two games there on Feb. 7 and 9, when the community can get a glimpse of its new home team.

General Manager Mike Cain said 2015-2016 season ticket sales open Jan. 1 to current season ticket holders and to the general public about a month later. Tickets for the February games also go on sale Jan. 1 to current season ticket holders and to the general public three weeks later.

“It’s great hockey,” said Cain. “It’s going to bring a lot of revenue to the city, not just in the Colisee.”

4. Swoosh, weee, win

Sugarloaf will host the 2015 U.S. Alpine Championships in March, home to that event for the fifth time.

“It’s the premiere alpine racing event for the U.S. Ski Team in the country, other than World Cups,” said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin. “We’re expecting most if not all of the biggest names on the U.S. Ski Team to be here.”

Possibilities include Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety, Bode Miller and Carrabassett Valley’s own Sam Morse.

Sugarloaf is one of the few mountains in the east with terrain certified to host the championships, Austin said. “It’s a great showcase for ski racing and Sugarloaf has such a great ski racing history.”

The event is planned for March 25-29. There will be opening ceremonies, a parade of athletes, and he said they hope to have an autograph availability.

It’s free to watch the races from the finish line area.

5. A man walks into a bar . . . in Bethel

This summer marks the fifth year of The Maine Comedy Fest held up at the Bethel Inn.

Festival Director Ian Harvie has already lined up one headliner: Kate Flannery, star of “The Office” and part of the singing comedy duo The Lampshades.

“They’re absolutely hilarious,” said Harvie. “It’s kind of like a silly lounge act. It’s a combination of music and stand-up and it’s very, very funny — and they’re actually good singers.”

Held over three days in August, the festival will feature 16 comedians, eight men and eight women, from around the country and in Maine.

All the comics will also play in a charity golf tournament that weekend.

“We cough on people’s back swings and crack jokes,” Harvie said. “We have the Maine Comedy Festival bullhorn and we have comics going around heckling while they’re playing golf. If you’re a serious golfer and that kind of stuff bugs you, it’s not your tournament.”

Festival tickets go on sale June 1.

6. Exhibitionists

Museums your thing? The new Maine Photo Project features displays of photography — some historical, some new juried competitions, all different — at 32 museums, galleries and historical societies around the state starting Jan. 12. (The Bates College Museum of Art is participating.)

“They’re very light-sensitive so they can’t be on display all the time the way a painting or a sculpture can,” said Project Coordinator Jessica Skwire Routhier.  “It’s all stuff that doesn’t see the light of day as much as some other collections. This is a way to celebrate it and get stuff out of the vault.”

The Maine State Museum’s new major exhibit for 2015 will be tied into that project, “The Passionate Photographer: Kosti Ruohomaa’s Maine in Magazine Photojournalism.”

Maine Maritime Museum will debut a revamped “Lobstering & the Maine Coast” exhibit. One of its themes: “Lobster, a story of the way we eat.”

Also next summer, the International Cryptozoology Museum will have an exhibit on loan from Texas’ Museum of the Weird.

“In the late ’60s, this exhibit started showing up that claimed to be a Bigfoot shot over in Vietnam during the Vietnam War,” said ICM’s Loren Coleman. “The owner of it got very scared that he was going to be charged with homicide so he switched the body out (with the model that exists today). It’s 6 feet long, covered in hair, called the Minnesota Iceman.”

And coming to a Maine near you.

7. Elections (again)! 

You’re thinking, but didn’t we just have elections? And yes, technically, we did, but in 2015 there’s even more.

Both Twin Cities’ city councils are up for election, as are Lewiston and Auburn mayors. Will Auburn’s Jonathan LaBonte have a challenger? Will Lewiston’s Bob Macdonald run again?

Start your election brackets now.

8. All amped up

A new amphitheater planned for Simard Payne Park will go out to bid in January for construction next spring, according to David Hediger, Lewiston city planner and deputy director of planning and code enforcement.

The goal is to have it open for late summer/early fall, if the re-grown grass cooperates. 

Hediger said it will likely be able to fit 700 people. The idea of marketing it or how the city will book the space are unknowns that will be tackled as those questions come up.

“Our goal is to create a performance area in a great setting next to the river, in the park,” he said. “I’ll be tickled pink if there’s 100 people down there for a juggler or a small band or someone doing Shakespeare in the park. It’s going to be available for anyone and everyone who wants to be able to use that space down there. I think it’ll take time to gauge how popular it is.”

9.  Let there be arts

In 2015, Community Little Theater turns 75 (the diamond anniversary, if you’re in a gift-giving mood) and, next fall, The Public Theatre will kick off its 25th season (the silver anniversary, if you’re still shopping).

There will be singing, swooning, dancing, drama, and that’s just in the line for the bathroom. There’s no better time than next year to make it a date night and check out both.

10. Star Wars VII!*

* Exclamation points to infinity 

A Flagship Cinemas spokesman didn’t return a call for comment about any planned special events. One can only surmise that’s because he was busy painting little X-Wings and AT-ATs above the concession stand.

The official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens”: Dec. 18, 2015.

The only thing that remains to be seen is how soon fans start waiting in line to see it.

Farmers’ Almanac editor Peter Geiger said the Northeast’s forecast next December calls for fair weather from the 12th to 15th, followed by “stormy initially, then heavy snows” from the 16th to the 19th.

So you may have to break out some blankets and the Force to keep you warm.

Worth it.

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