AUBURN — Maine’s first large-scale aerial drone light show captivated an estimated 5,000 spectators in and around Festival Plaza on Main Street for New Year’s Auburn on Sunday night.

Some 150 drones took to the sky about 8:45 p.m. when Dallas-based Sky Elements launched them from behind Roak Block on Main Street. Employee Ryan Smith said the show was one of 11 the company was putting on across the United States. Some shows can use more than 1,000 drones, he said.

Smith said the drones are all programmed through 3D software, so they all know where they need to go and what colors they need to be. The show is conducted through GPS and the apparatus looks almost identical to what land surveyors use, he said.

“It’s always a thrill no matter the size of the drone show,” Smith said. “Watching them all take off at the same time doing their thing is pretty wild.”

Mayor Jeff Harmon opened the celebration at 3 p.m. and handed the stage over to local band ISH. An hourslong lineup of Maine musicians performed, including the band Hello Newman and Grammy winner Dave Gutter and his band.

Katie Whelan and Jenny Morin dance Sunday to the sounds of the band Ish during Auburn’s New Year’s Eve celebration at Festival Plaza. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Partygoers moved from one Maine-based craft brewery stall to another, while enjoying food from vendors lined up on Main Street. Breweries included Craft Brew Underground, Eighteen Twenty, Geary, Grateful Grain, Gritty McDuff’s, Lost Valley, Nonesuch River, Olive Pit, Rusty Bus and Side By Each. Food trucks included Burke’s Perks Café and Grill, Burnt Ends Barbecue, Casa Del Taco, Rollin’ in the Dough and Tripp’s Farmhouse Café.


Chris and Sarah Cray meandered across town for the festivities. Unlike many at the plaza, they already committed to a single resolution for the new year: kindness.

“We talked about it earlier and I think it’s really just to be nice,” Sarah said, “to be kind, whenever you can, to each other and to the earth.”

Sarah and Luke Wiley made the trek from Turner for the first time since before their 1-year-old son Reid was born.

“I’d say not to get so distracted, to stay focused,” Sarah said when asked for her resolution.

Luke piggybacked on his wife’s resolution agreeing distraction needs to stay behind with 2023.

“We came actually for the first New Year’s Auburn,” Luke said. “We missed last year because Reid was just born. I think this is the third year, right?”


“No,” said Sarah noting the event was in its fifth year. “It’s been a couple years since we came.”

“Ah, maybe we missed a few years,” Luke said. “I don’t know. See? Not to be so distracted!”

Partygoers sing along to the music of Hello Newman on Sunday during Auburn’s New Year’s Eve celebration at Festival Plaza. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Nicole Rioux and Mike Wise of Auburn said their resolution is to walk or hike 20 miles before the end of January.

“It’s probably one of the most boring resolutions ever,” Wise said.

“But, I mean, we’ve really got six hours to decide, to pick one,” Rioux said.

Lewiston’s Heidi Brooks and her mother, Carol Mashaw, and Auburn native, decided they would be focusing on self-care, helping others and staying positive.


“And creating joy,” Brooks said.

“For me, it’s to say ‘yes’ more than I say ‘no,’” Mashaw said.

Liz Allen, Auburn’s director of communications and community engagement, said attendance numbers would not be available for a couple days, but the show, as of 6 p.m., was shaping up to be hosting the 5,000 spectators the city was expecting.

“It was great getting everybody fired up,” Allen said. “It really does have that community block party feel and makes for a really good time.”

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