MARS — A chill was in the air at the Mars New Year’s Eve celebration, along with cheerful community spirit and the tempting aroma of pork and sauerkraut.
Revelers bundled up against the wintry conditions at the 13th annual event, which lasted from 9 p.m. to midnight at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Pittsburgh Street.
Sponsored by the Mars Historical Society, the family-oriented celebration offered free food, free raffles of gift certificates and merchandise, and the lighting of the Mars spaceship at midnight.
Each year’s celebration includes the midnight revelation of a secret theme from the past year’s events. This year the historical society chose the success of “Curiosity,” the vehicle that landed on the planet Mars in August to retrieve soil samples and obtain other information.
Mars’ new mayor, Terry Onufer, was on hand to ring in the new year along with borough councilman David Farr.
“It’s small-town U.S.A.,” Onufer said. “It’s awesome.”
The mayor said such festivals are an important part of Americana, and he appreciated those who bundled up to attend.
“It instills a sense of community and brings the town and its families, young and old, together,” Onufer said.
Of those young people, Kelly Shaw, 13, shivered with a group of her friends.
“I live right down the street, so I always come and meet my friends here,” Kelly said.
Courtney Greiner, 14, also is a longtime celebrant.
“It brings the people of Mars together,” Courtney said. “Plus I like to hang out with my friends.”
Shawn Huerbin of Valencia brought his wife and three children.
“Small towns stick together, so these type of festivals are a way for the people to do that,” said Huerbin, who grew up in Mars.
Huerbin and his family huddled around one of the many burn barrels that provided heat on the cold and wet night.
“My kids have been taking advantage of the refreshments,” he said.
Ernie Huhs of the Mars Historical Society doled out pork and hot dogs from a small trailer on Pittsburgh Street. Huhs said he cooked 175 hot dogs and 30 pounds of pork for the celebration. Coffee and hot chocolate also were popular as the temperatures dipped.
Chuck Steinke, a lifelong Mars resident, brought three grandchildren and a great-niece to the event.
“They wanted to come up to the big town of Mars,” Steinke said.
He enjoyed running into people he had not seen in several years. He also appreciated the historical society for putting on the celebration.
“It’s important that Mars has things like this, especially for the kids,” he said.
In between calling out raffle numbers every 15 minutes and playing upbeat music, DJ Bill Swaney smiled at the young revelers, many of whom sported lighted mohawks and glow stick necklaces.
“These festivals are important because it keeps the enthusiasm going in the town and makes the town more desirable to live in,” he said.