18 Weirdest Things Dropped to Count Down to the New Year
New York City may have started the first ball drop on New Year's Eve, but these other locales deserve credit for their unique celebrations.
With all due respect to Times Square…
New York’s Times Square Ball, with its 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and 32,256 LEDs, dominates the New Year’s Eve countdown coverage, with myriad national and international TV appearances. But plenty of other places ring in the New Year with celebratory “drops” of their own, proving you don’t have to have a ball to, well, have a ball on December 31. By the way, this is the surprising reason we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve. Scroll on for some of the strangest things ever “dropped” in the name of New Year’s fun:
Spec-taters have gathered on New Year’s Eve in Boise, in front of the Idaho State Capitol, since 2013 to watch a supersize spud drop it like it’s hot (potato). Introduced in year three of Boise’s annual event—which includes live music, fireworks, ice sculpting, a snow park for a big-air rail jam, and a wrestling tournament—the 20-foot-long, 10-foot-wide internally lit fiberglass “GlowTato” cost $250,000 and has the added status of having been a video clue on Cash Cab. If you’re ready to check out New Year’s in other places, but have no one to travel with, rock your New Year solo at these destinations.
In New Orleans in Jackson Square along the mighty Mississippi River, the NOLA night sky is lit up ’round midnight by the annual descent of a giant colorful fleur-de-lis shooting sparkler-like bursts that explode into an extended fireworks display. The glowing state symbol, also seen on the Crescent City NFL team, the fleur-de-lis used to be joined atop the JAX Brewery by an oversize statue of Baby New Year. But in 2015 that jovial infant was retired after the French Quarter festivities and now welcomes guests with open arms to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Make sure you taste a king cake while in town, to honor Twelfth Night. The cakes with trinkets baked inside are just one of the 13 foods people consume for luck on New Year’s.
Wisconsin’s Sister Bay will host its third annual red-cherry drop in 2019 at the Sports Complex. The city is located in the northern part of the Door County Peninsula, which is famous for the fruit. (In the mid-1900s, Door County was the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States with more than 10,000 acres of orchards according to region’s tourism board.) The 300-pound, six-foot cherry, complete with green stem and leaf, is lowered from 150 feet in the air. Last year, the cherry theme extended to the drinks menu and the midnight toast was made with Cherry Sparkle from Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery while the signature cocktail was made with Central Standard Distillery’s cherry vodka. Tasty! Don’t miss these 11 New Year’s resolutions cartoons that are spot-on.
A music note
Bet Nashville didn’t waiver when someone suggested they drop a quaver to ring in the New Year. A quaver, or eighth note, is the perfect choice for this country-music capital of the world, AKA Music City. The 400-pound, 16-foot note—made of aluminum, acrylic, and 13,000 lights—is raised up a 140-foot-tall tower starting at 6 p.m. The drop happens at the Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight, a free concert and fireworks spectacular held at Bicentennial Mall State Park.
For its kid-friendly New Year’s Eve, LEGOLAND California has begun a countdown tradition where they drop a giant LEGO brick at 6 p.m.—well before most kiddos’ bedtime. The brick falls 22 feet in the San Francisco park, accompanied by live bands, party favors, and fireworks. Don’t miss these 13 other amusement parks that go all out for the holidays.
On Virginia’s Chincoteague Island, home to a magnificent herd of wild ponies, revelers bid adieu to the decade with a horseshoe drop and costume parade at Robert Reed Downtown Park. In its inaugural year (2011), the horseshoe was made of chicken wire, brown plastic, and string lights, but the shoe got an upgrade in 2015; the new and improved horseshoe is all decked out with strobe lights and flashers. Find out 15 etiquette rules that changed in the past decade.
A duck decoy
Nestled on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace, Maryland, is the “decoy capital of the world,” as it is home to master carvers, decoy shops, and a museum solely dedicated to decoys. So it probably isn’t that difficult to guess what they drop at their New Year’s Eve party on the grounds of the Concord Point Lighthouse—a giant duck. This year marks the wooden waterfowl’s 20th anniversary and the duck will share the bill with a midnight fireworks extravaganza. Don’t miss these 13 things you never knew about fireworks.
A crab and a muskrat
Not to be outdone, Easton, Maryland puts on its own unique drop. At First Night Talbot, the last celebration of its kind in The Old Line State, festivities include not one but two massive crab drops (at 9 p.m. and midnight), a tradition that dates back to 1994. The crab is Maryland’s official state symbol. Other Chesapeake Bay towns have drops of their own featuring their town symbols: Cape Charles drops a crab pot and Princess Anne has the Midnight Muskrat Dive, at which Marshall Muskrat, garbed in top hat and cape, takes a ride on a zip line.
Can a giant mushroom give the Big Apple a run for it’s money? At Midnight in the Square, an event that takes place in suburban Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (the “mushroom capital of the world”) organizers send an 8-foot-tall, 500-pound stainless steel mushroom dropping down into a crowd attending the Mushroom Festival.
A ski village gondola
The celebration at Heavenly Village in Lake Tahoe reaches its peak when a gondola is sent 2.4 miles down the mountain accompanied by an aerial drone show, fireworks, and streamer blasts. The festivities happen at 9 p.m.—in order to coincide with New York’s ball drop in Times Square. And so skiers and snowboarders can get to bed at a reasonable hour and awake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to hit the bunny trails and black diamonds early in the morning on New Year’s Day. Discover all the best places to ski this winter.
A marlin and a Moon Pie
It’s no fish tale; at midnight on December 31, a giant marlin is dropped into the crowd hanging out at the Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama, at an event appropriately called Reelin’ in the New Year. Meanwhile in neighboring Mobile, the town’s celebration gives new meaning to sugar high, as their fete features a 600-pound illuminated Moon-Pie drop. Organizers also put on a laser light show and serve up the world’s largest edible version of the Southern sweet treat. Don’t tell the party-goers, but the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham-cracker concoction doesn’t even hail from the heart of Dixie; it was invented in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1917 and is still manufactured there today.
A drag queen, a pirate wench, and a Pan Am stewardess
Back in 1996, the owner of the Bourbon St. Pub on Key West’s main drag had a crazy idea to commemorate the end of the calendar year—seat a drag queen named Sushi (AKA: Gary Marion) in a giant red stiletto made of chicken wire, papier-mâché, and plywood, dangle her off the roof of the bar, then lower her down minute by minute as the crowd counts down the new year. The spectacle has come a long way in the 24 years since the first unpermitted party. A local auto mechanic was hired to spiff up the shoe, and now a fresh coat of glitter is applied each year in preparation for the festivities. Other Key West businesses have joined in the New Year’s Eve celebration. First Flight Brewery, located in a renovated Pan American World Airways building, sends down a replica Pan Am plane with a costumed flight attendant. Sloppy Joe’s drops a giant seashell, symbolic of the nickname for Key West—the Conch Republic. The Schooner Wharf Bar “rigs” in the new year with cannon blasts, and a pirate wench is sent flying down the mast of the tall ship docked out front.
In Temecula, California, one of the state’s many wine regions, they drop a giant cluster of grapes into the crowd hanging out in Old Town. The current bunch of grapes, created by 60 Grit Studios, weighs 150 pounds and is lit up by more than 7,000 lights. Molded in fiberglass, it spans 9 feet wide by 13.5 feet tall, plus each leaf adds another 5 feet in width and 6 feet in height. The organizers do a drop at midnight and another at 9 p.m. for early birds.
A pig and a possum
Rest assured, no animal is harmed in either of these Virginia events. A giant silver pig wrapped in twinkle lights will be suspended from the Wharf Hill Brewing Company in Smithfield, the self-described “ham capital of the world,” some call “Hamtown.” Come New Year’s Eve the hanging hog will be lowered to ring in the New Year. Meanwhile, the Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion marks the passage of another year with their New Year’s Eve Pickin’ Party and Possum Drop. Local musicians jam, everyone eats potluck, then a giant papier-mâché possum filled with candy and prizes makes an appearance. Organizers have their own interpretation of “drop”; they intend to just toss the thing off the roof at midnight. Look out below!
At the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Countdown, a massive waterfront street party ends with the drop of a 20-foot-tall, 17-foot-wide anchor weighing more than 700 pounds and featuring almost 12,000 LEDs. After the illuminated anchor descends 100 feet it sets off a five-minute pyrotechnic show that lights the night sky as a shower of confetti rains down on the crowd of 100,000 revelers.
Here’s proof that the marshmallow treats aren’t just for Easter anymore. At Peeps Fest—an annual two-day fan gathering in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania December 30 and 31—a 5-foot-tall, 400-pound yellow Peep is dropped at the kid-friendly hour of 5:15 p.m. Check out these 11 candy factories around the United States that you can actually visit.
Beach balls (a lot of them)
People of all ages can have a ball (literally!) at Panama City Beach’s annual fete on the last night of the year. At 8 p.m. 10,000 inflatable beach balls are released onto the crowd at Pier Park. Then at midnight, another beach ball drops—but this time it’s a giant LED-lit one, which makes the plunge down a tower 10 feet higher than the New York City ball drop (not to get competitive or anything!).
A pine cone
Cone is where the heart is in Flagstaff, Arizona. In an annual event that started in 1999, the Great Pinecone, a 6-foot illuminated sculpture, is lowered from the Weatherford Hotel. The symbol was chosen to reflect the mountain town’s location within North America’s largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest. And if you think that’s amazing, scroll on to discover the best bucket list adventure in every state.