Allyson Casares, event co-chairwoman of New Year’s Auburn, in front of the music stage on New Year’s Eve. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Despite the weather, which plastered the region with heavy snow the night before Auburn’s New Year’s Eve party, Allyson Casares was on time and ready to help.

The live entertainment would be arriving soon, and Casares was charged with putting together a green room for the bands — the former Main Street Music, converted and cleaned by Casares, turned hangout spot.

As co-chairwoman of the event, which marked its second year last week, Casares is virtually the only non-city staff member with such an active role.

She was invited to work on it because of her reputation.

In 2018, Casares was named Auburn’s ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the Auburn Business Association due to her volunteer and community efforts. Mayor Jason Levesque, who would launch the city’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2019, immediately reached out to Casares for help.

“I got excited because I think it’s a wonderful way for the community to come together,” she said. “I love being a part of events like this.”

She said last year, New Year’s Auburn amounted to an experiment that worked. It was intended to be a special kickoff to the city’s anniversary celebration, but due to its popularity, the city decided to make it an annual event.

A large section of Main Street closes, and Festival Plaza becomes the backdrop for a night of music, dancing, local breweries and food trucks, and fireworks.

“It all just sort of fell into place,” Casares said, adding that the city and its staff do “all the groundwork, and I’m just here as support.”

Casares, however, is modest. She has so many connections that she was responsible for booking some of the food trucks, photography and even some of the entertainment involved in the event. She also got a few sponsors on board.

Outside of the relatively new event, Casares is known for previous volunteer efforts. She serves on the board of the Lewiston-Auburn Children’s Foundation and coordinated the Kids’ Zone at the Dempsey Challenge.

Despite her deep connections within Auburn, Casares is a native of Bangor. When she was named ‘citizen of the year,’ Mayor Jason Levesque said Casares may be the first person in the 45-year history of the award “to be from away.”

When she thinks about that award, she is still humbled and surprised.

“It truly was one of the most incredible events I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “I’m honored to have been considered for it, and I’m over-the-moon grateful.”

Casares grew up in Bangor and moved 13 years ago from the Midwest to Auburn, after her husband, Peter, took a job as the swimming coach at Bates College in Lewiston.

With a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in language and literacy, she has worked in several capacities, including as a teacher and in college admissions. Now, Casares is an educational technician for prekindergarten students in Sabattus, a job that she said allows her the time to volunteer.

Levesque said last week that it did not take much convincing to get Casares on board last year. He said she has been an active volunteer throughout the city and the School Department, and she “takes the lead” without direction.

“It’s a testament of the strength of the event and her love of community,” he said, adding that Auburn is “a community where one individual can make a difference.”

Casares said she plans to continue working on New Year’s Auburn, if it continues. Given its popularity in its first two years, that seems likely.

“I’m always happy to be a part of something that brings good energy to the city of Auburn,” she said.

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.

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