It’s almost New Year’s Eve! Soon we’ll be gathered around the TV or jammed into a small space outside watching the Times Square ball drop. We’ll wrap ourselves around those we love and direct our gaze to the plummeting ball of bright crystals and begin the countdown. But did you know the first New Year’s ball drop was actually intended to help sailors? It’s true. Originally called a “time ball” in England back in 1829, sailors set their telescopes towards shore. They knew when the ball began to descend it was officially time to adjust their watches and chronometers. It wasn’t until 1845 when the U.S. Naval Observatory caught on to the idea that many cities and port towns began implementing time balls.
Since then, we’ve graduated to brighter, more gaudy and creative versions of the time-honored tradition. Here are five cities ringing in the New Year dropping something other than a ball. (Be sure you tell us your favorite in the comments at the end!)
For the last 16 years, locals and tourists have met in the town square to watch the giant, glittery pine cone descend from the roof of the historic Weatherford Hotel. Entering the ring at 6 feet and 70lbs, this pine cone looks more like an opera house chandelier. (No swinging allowed!)
The sweet townspeople of chilly Eastport, Maine have been ringing in the new year with two ball drops since 2002. Eastport needed a way to breathe new life into the town after having had their last sardine factory, which is what they were known for, close in the 1980s. As a way to boost morale on a budget, and to be friendly with their New Brunswick neighbors, the township decided to throw a party for both themselves and Canada.
At 11PM Eastport drops a giant maple leaf from the top of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art in Bank Square while a small volunteer brass band plays “O Canada”.
Afterwards, the party continues for another hour until midnight EST when a commemorative 8-foot sardine drops and the brass band warms themselves up performing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Who doesn’t love a Moon Pie? Created by the Chattanooga Bakery in 1917, this sugary, southern staple serves as the inspiration for Mobile’s New Year’s Eve celebration. About 50,000 people gather to watch the 600lb Moon Pie sign, along with some customary fireworks, illuminate the sky. (This year is their 100th anniversary too! Celebratory midnight Moon Pies, anyone?)
This New Year’s ball drop is one you almost have to see to believe. Since 2008, the party has built quite the reputation as “7 Wacky Ways to Ring in the New Year” and making 2011’s “Top Ten Quirkiest New Year’s Eve Celebrations in America” by TripAdvisor.
A 180-foot, 500lb watermelon is hoisted by a crane then when the clock strikes midnight, the bottom of the melon drops out and actual watermelons that had been stuffed inside hit the “splatform” below. The earth-shattering splat is immediately followed by fireworks and singing.
Why a watermelon? The county is located on soil that is ideal for growing the fruit. (more than 7,000 semitruck-loads every summer!). With thousands of watermelon fields producing some of the best-tasting melons around, the town doesn’t mind setting aside a supply for the celebration.
Pickle people! We’ve got your ticket to one of the saltiest celebrations around right here. Travel to Mt. Olive for your brined cucumber fix, and also an earlier bed time. When the clock strikes 7:00pm on December 31, an illuminated 3-foot pickle nosedives into a pickle tank below. Why 7:00pm? Because that’s the same time as midnight in Greenwich, England, home of Greenwich Mean Time. Meet you at the corner of Cucumber and Vine!