14 oddball New Year’s Eve celebrations
Can’t make it to Times Square on December 31? Worry not; chances are there’s a folksier New Year’s Eve celebration closer to your home.
Communities across the country are ringing in 2016 with local variations on Times Square’s Ball Drop.
Celebrating bologna, pickles and muskrats might be a far cry from watching the Waterford crystal ball in Times Square with a million of your closest friends. But smaller celebrations reflect local traditions and civic pride. Plus, you’ll have an easier time finding the bathroom.
Here are some things to do on New Year’s Eve in no particular order:
‘Walleye madness’ in Port Clinton, Ohio
Along the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie, Port Clinton reels in the New Year with a 20-foot, 600-pound Fiberglas fish modeled after the town mascot, Wylie the Walleye.
Since 1996, residents of the self-proclaimed “Walleye Capital of the World” have braved freezing temperatures for “Walleye Madness at Midnight.” Festivities begin at dusk and culminate in the lowering of Wylie before midnight, followed by fireworks.
Bologna drop in Lebanon, Pennsylvania
December 31, 2015, marks the 18th year that residents of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, will ring in the New Year by cheering on a massive cylinder of sandwich meat. After all, it’s a longstanding point of pride in the region that bologna made in Lebanon is not your average Oscar Mayer fare.
The butchering, curing and sausage-making processes that distinguish Lebanon bologna from “minced bologna” is the stuff of lengthy academic papers. Suffice to say, it’s enough to make the town’s signature export worthy of New Year’s Eve reverence.
This year’s model by Weaver Bologna comes in at 12 feet long and 200 pounds. After the festivities, the bologna will be donated to the local shelters, according to organizers.
Watermelon drop in Vincennes, Indiana
Since 2008, folks in Vincennes, Indiana, have celebrated New Year’s Eve — and their locally renowned melons — with a Watermelon Drop. But instead of slowly lowering a glittering sculpture of a melon (boring!), they drop a bunch of actual watermelons that plummet toward the ground and burst open upon a raised wooden “splatform” (haha). A crane hoists the melons inside the event’s centerpiece, an 18-foot wooden watermelon that looks like a green blimp, before letting them fly at midnight. Cheers and fireworks follow.
Muskrat ‘dive’ in Princess Anne, Maryland
The muskrat has been trapped for pelts and meat for generations in the Chesapeake Bay Region, making it a prime candidate for New Year’s Eve mascot. Unlike in other events that use replicas, Marshall Muskrat is the real deal — a stuffed muskrat in top hat and cape.
When the Midnight Muskrat Dive started in 2012, Marshall was lowered in a bucket truck. Now, he slides down a zip line for maximum visibility and audience entertainment.
Pickle drop in Mount Olive, North Carolina
Thousands of revelers pack this eastern North Carolina town each December 31 to watch the Mt. Olive Pickle Company celebrate the new year by dropping a 3-foot glowing pickle down a flagpole into a pickle tank.
The event happens outside company headquarters at Cucumber Boulevard and Vine Street (there are also Dill and Relish streets nearby). And good news, sleepyheads: The pickle drop occurs not at the stroke of midnight but at 7 p.m. ET — that’s midnight Greenwich Mean Time — letting kids and early-to-bed adults join in the fun.
‘Big cheese drop’ in Plymouth, Wisconsin
The Big Cheese Drop in Plymouth, Wisconsin, honors the region’s history as former home of the National Cheese Exchange, which helped establish cheese prices until 1955. The 80-pound metal wedge, which is lowered from a 100-foot truck ladder, is dairy-free but organizers hand out complimentary bags of cheese wedges to the first 250 families in attendance. The lowering at the Plymouth Arts Center concludes at 10 p.m. to make it a family-friendly affair but the wine-and-cheese partying continues into 2016.
Pinecone drop in Flagstaff, Arizona
In Flagstaff, Arizona, revelers fill the streets to watch a 6-foot, lighted aluminum-and-copper pinecone be lowered from the roof of the historic Weatherford Hotel downtown. Organizers chose a pinecone to represent Flagstaff’s mountainous locale amid the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in North America. Begun in 1999, the event includes two pinecone drops: one at 10 p.m. to coincide with New York’s Times Square celebration and another at midnight to mark Arizona’s big moment.
Grape drop in Temecula Valley, California
A cluster of grapes seemed the appropriate centerpiece for a New Year’s celebration in Southern California wine country. Temecula Valley’s grape drop features a cluster of 160 balls measuring 7 feet wide and 12 feet long and adorned with more than 7,000 lights. Partygoers begin to gather at nightfall for live music, family activities and outdoor ice skating before the grapes descend from Temecula’s City Hall Clock Tower with an East Coast and West Coast countdown.
Donut drop in Hagerstown, Maryland
Krumpe’s Donuts is a local institution in Hagerstown, Maryland, known and loved for its sweet treats since 1934. Its classic glazed variety is the focal point of Hagerstown’s family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, which started in 2013. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. with free doughnuts and hot chocolate and end at 7 p.m. with the 6-foot, 300-pound replica descending down the Hagerstown clocktower.
Krumpe’s gave away about 6,000 doughnuts at the 2014 celebration, according to Max Krumpe, the confectioner’s fourth-generation owner.
Flip-flop drop in Folly Beach, South Carolina
Since New Year’s Eve 2011, an 8-foot tall pair of sparkly flip-flops has been raised above the Tides Hotel in Folly Beach, South Carolina, in honor of the coastal community’s signature footwear.
Center Street closes to vehicle traffic at 10 p.m., and revelers are welcome to move into the street. The flip-flops drop to count down the last 10 seconds before the New Year followed by a fireworks display.
Double-trouble in Key West, Florida
Leave it to Key West to come up with multiple eccentric New Year’s Eve traditions. First, there was the shoe drop featuring drag queen Gary “Sushi” Marion inside a massive red shoe, starting in 1996.
Now, enter the “Lowering of the Pirate Wench.” It all happens outside the waterside Schooner Wharf bar, where a live woman in a pirate outfit is lowered 80 feet from the mast of the tall ship America 2.0 docked nearby. The woman, Schooner Wharf proprietess Evalena Worthington, smiles gamely and waves a sword as she descends at midnight to cheers from her patrons. No doubt Jimmy Buffett would approve.
Wrench drop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
The result of an Eagle Scout project by a Mechanicsburg Area School District graduate, this small town west of Harrisburg dropped its first wrench on New Year’s Eve in 2004. The galvanized steel wrench commemorates the mechanics who settled in the area to repair wagons that were traveling west after crossing the Susquehanna River.
Beach ball drop in Panama City Beach, Florida
Party central of the Florida Panhandle has two New Year’s Eve countdowns: One at 8 p.m. for the younger crowd, in which 10,000 inflatable beach balls are dropped from overhead, followed by fireworks; and then the midnight countdown, which involves an 800-pound LED-lit beach ball being lowered for the countdown to the new year, followed by more fireworks.
Both take place at Panama City Beach’s Pier Park. In eight years, attendance has swelled from around 7,500 people in year one to about 40,000 in 2014, according to organizers.
Chile drop in Las Cruces, Mexico
The newest arrival to the party, the Las Cruces Chile Drop debuted on December 31, 2014, as an homage to chile growers in the region and New Mexico. When the 19-foot-long chile returns this year, a crane will drop it like it’s hot above Las Cruces’ Main Street in the center of town.