Gloucester will kick off its year-long 400+ commemoration with a party to welcome the new year, and a grand ceremony in mid-January that will recognize the city’s past, celebrate its people, and look to its future.

To usher in the quadricentennial year, on Dec. 31, Gloucester 400+ will put on a “ball drop” bash at City Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., when the clock will be turning to midnight in the city’s namesake of Gloucester, England and in Dorset, England, which four centuries ago sent out the band of English fishermen who would build a settlement here.

Two weeks later, the “Gloucester 400+ Overture To 2023” will be an appreciation of the culture, history, and diversity of those who built Gloucester into what it is now and can be tomorrow. The free event will take place Sunday, Jan. 15 at Gloucester High School.

“The whole notion of the Overture is to encourage the community to come together and reflect not only on our first 400-plus years, but on what our next century is going to look like,” said Bruce Tobey, one of the Gloucester 400+ tri-chairs and one of the organizers of the Jan. 15 event. “And it will be done in way that is serious, stimulating and elevating, and at the same time entertaining.”

On the cultural side of the event, a highlight will be the performance of three works by award-winning Gloucester composer Robert J. Bradshaw: “Gloucester Fanfare,” “Adventure,” and “Faith, Hope and Fortitude.” and former Gloucester Poet Laureate John Ronan will give a reading of his poem dedicated to Gloucester’s 400+ years.

Speakers and presentations will touch on Gloucester’s origins and on its promise. Looking to history, remarks from Indigenous representatives will recognized that the land all of Gloucester lives, works and builds its future on is that of the Indigenous people’s nation. O’Maley Innovation Middle School student Joseph Porcello will read from a speech given at a 300th event by then-Mayor William J. McInnis.

A bold vision for the city will be addressed by the keynote speaker, David Walt, Ph.D., one of the co-founders of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute. GMGI, launched a decade ago to explore the potential in marine biotechnology, runs a world-class research institute on the city’s waterfront and trains the next generation of biotech lab technicians at its Gloucester Biotechnology Academy.

Also on the program will be an opening ceremony with presentation of colors by the combined Honor and Color Guard of Gloucester High School’s JROTC, Sea Cadets, U.S. Coast Guard, Gloucester Fire and Police departments and veterans representing all five branches of the service and POWs; Gloucester student Alessandro Schoc singing the national anthem; a welcome by Mayor Greg Verga; and invocations and a benediction from local clergy. State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester will serve as master of ceremonies.

Pulling together the Overture have been two “old hands,” Tobey and Linn Doyle Parisi. The two were just out of high school when they worked on Gloucester’s 350th celebration, and they pitched in again for Gloucester’s 375th at a time when Tobey was serving as the city’s mayor.

The Overture, said Tobey, “will celebrate the talents of our musicians and writers, honor our foundations of patriotism and faith, showcase the promise of our young people, and advance our consciousness of the important principals of diversity, equity, inclusion and access, while acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of people who came before us.”

“Countdown to 2023!” will take place Saturday, Dec. 31, at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at City Hall, 9 Dale Ave., with hot chocolate and cookies being served, and noisemakers supplied for all. Mayor Greg Verga and 400+ tri-Chair Bob Gillis will be counting to the stroke of midnight in the United Kingdom (at 7 p.m. here). The event is free to all comers.

“Gloucester 400+ Overture To 2023” take place Sunday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. at in the auditorium at Gloucester High School, 32 Leslie O. Johnson Road. The snow date will be Monday, Jan. 16. The event is free, but reservations are requested by going to the Gloucester 400+ website, www.gloucesterma400.org. The site’s Events section includes a link for the Overture as well as listings for many other events slated for 2023.

Gloucester’s 1623 studios will be live-streaming the Overture on its YouTube site so folks at home can watch the event, and will film the event for future replay.

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