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 the 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, gaudier, and more creative versions. Here are five cities that took that tradition and made it unique to their local history by ringing in the New Year by dropping something other than a ball. (Be sure you tell us your favorite in the comments at the end!)
The Great Pine Cone Drop – Flagstaff, AZ
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 Maple Leaf and Great Sardine Drop – Eastport, ME
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 11 PM 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”.
Afterward, the party continues for another hour until midnight EST when a commemorative 8-foot sardine drops and the brass band warm themselves up performing “Auld Lang Syne.”
The Moon Pie Drop – Mobile, AL
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?)
The Watermelon Drop – Vincennes, IN
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 made 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 semi truck-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.
The Pickle Drop – Mt. Olive, NC
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 bedtime. When the clock strikes 7:00 pm on December 31, illuminated 3-foot pickle nosedives into a pickle tank below. Why 7:00 pm? 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!
22 thoughts on “5 Unique New Year’s Ball Drops in America”
I See all of your show on youtube i like seeing the old one to never get tired of them.
How can I find ,on your site, to shop for the items such as motorcycles, etc. that Mike and frank found?
Sorry to say that you can’t, Randy. Picks are only available in store. Cash in on your vacation time in the new year and come visit us in Nashville or LeClaire!
In indianapolis they drop a Indy car.
No way… That sounds fun! We’d like to see that!
I enjoyed seeing how different towns celebrate New Years. Smiling. I liked learning how the whole time thing originated with the sailors. We love your show. Please keep Frank, Danielle, and the girls. Love you, Mike and Happy New Year!
Glad you enjoyed the article, Janet! It was fun to write! We want to go watch the watermelon drop for sure.
Fun article. Thanks so much, and happy new year!!!
Hey Mr. Wolfe, don’t forget about the Lorain Walleye Drop @ midnight.
How did we miss that, Becky? Looks like a good time. If you go share a pic and have a Happy New Year!
We have the possum drop in Brasstown, NC. Includes live possum drop at midnight. Male beauty queen contest, local bands and dancing in the streets. Free coffee and hot chocolate , No booze allowed. Check it out. FUN!
We’ve heard about your little NYE celebration, Michelle! How do you safely drop a possum?
Maine is Me
Massachusetts is Ma
Thanks for the correction!
Went to the Walleye Drop in Port Cinton, Oh this year. Great food, atmosphere, and drinks;) Will definitely return!
I’m surprised you didn’t feature Nashville and the music note drop. I have yet to run in to you in town but have seen pics of you around. BLUE 32 is one of my favs!! Love our little town and I hope you enjoy it as well!
medford lakes nj
A canoe drop!? You have our attention… looks like fun!
I’m surprised there’s no mention of the Pasty Drop in Escanaba, Michigan! (well, it’s chicken wire, tubing and lights… why waste a perfectly-good pasty?)
In Central PA there are numerous special drops:
Harrisburg PA – a Strawberry (Strawberry Square is town center)
York PA – a White Rose (Symbolic of the War of Roses in England)
Lancaster PA – a Red Rose (Same as York)
Dillsburg PA – a Pickle (because of Dill)
Lebanon PA – a 150 lb. Bologna Stick (for Lebanon Bologna which is edible)
Red Lion PA – a Cigar (because there was a cigar factory in town)
Hershey PA – a Chocolate Kiss (The kiss is actually raised. Home of Hershey Chocolate Co.)
Mechanicsburg PA – a 10.5′ Wrench (area that made and repaired wagons)
Shippensburg PA – an Anchor
Bethlehem PA – a giant marshmallow Peep (Home of Just Born, the company which makes the Peeps)
LOVE ALL OF THESE! 🙂
Wetumpka, Alabama has a meteorite drop every New Year’s Eve.