On New Year’s Eve, Times Square and its giant ball have seemingly monopolized the dropped-at-midnight industry. However, there are objects dropping simultaneously all over the country as the calendar flips, ranging from other giant objects, foods, even living creatures. In 2011, Seaside Heights in New Jersey lowered the reality television star Snooki. Here are some of the most bizarre projectiles that have become tradition in their respective towns.
The town of Eastover, North Carolina, aimed to celebrate New Year’s in a quirky way that celebrated the town’s past. Eastover, located on land formerly known as Flea Hill, is a sandy area that was previously prone to bug (especially flea) infestations. “We had to do something that was original, a little quirky,” Mayor Charles McLaurin stated. The town made the decision to honor the land’s history of pests by dropping none other than the insect it was named for. The 30-pound insect, named Jasper, is made of fabric, wire, foam, and plywood, and was created by a local resident. Despite the flea drop’s infancy, it is growing in popularity and has successfully scratched Eastover’s itch for a zany tradition.
A more recent New Year’s tradition began last year. The folks of Marietta, Georgia, were treated to a mystery drop in 2015—in the form of an eight-foot cube designed by engineers from Kennesaw State University. In the inaugural ceremony, the cube opened at midnight to reveal not a ball but… a trapeze artist. The gymnast performed for several minutes while suspended in the air, and although the event was unique, it was met with mixed reviews on social media. This year, the cube is returning and will feature another mystery drop, but its contents will be new.
When it comes to creative New Year’s drops, Pennsylvania is a contender in terms of quantity and quality, with cities dropping pickles, wrenches, roses, and a slew of other items related to local lore or industries. One of the more popular events is Lebanon’s bologna drop, a tradition in its 20th year, featuring a 16-foot bologna that is lowered in a metal cage emblazoned with lights. The gargantuan lunch meat is lowered and then donated to local missions (don’t worry, it never touches the ground!)
Lebanon isn’t the only ones with giant foods, however. Mobile, Alabama, celebrates their wildly popular “Moonpie Over Mobile” event with a 12-foot electronic replica Moonpie, a confection consisting of two graham cracker cookies connected with marshmallow filling and dipped in chocolate. The treats were well-known for being tossed in Mardi Gras parades in Mobile, and the New Year’s event began in 2008. The city hosts musicians, fireworks, a parade for the event. While the New Year’s Moonpie is inedible, the Chattanooga Bakery (creators of the Moonpie) create a giant moonpie that is very edible, which is sliced and served to the public.
Two residents of Prairie Du Chien, a Wisconsin town on the Mississippi river, came back from a peach-dropping ceremony in Savannah, Georgia, and decided that their town needed its own tradition to celebrate the holiday. Based on their location by the river, the residents decided a fish made sense for their town. After learning of a Chinese belief that eating carp on New Year’s brings good luck, they adopted the idea of dropping a ceremonial carp, aptly named Lucky. Each year, a carp is selected to play the role of Lucky, who is frozen until the time of the event. However, Lucky isn’t actually dropped, but is rather lowered by a crane—met at ground level by a line of adoring fans waiting to kiss the fish for good luck. The event was originally small, but now attracts crowds of a couple thousand, and has been converted into festival, Carp Fest. After the festivities complete, Lucky is refrozen until the spring, where the fish will have a proper burial under a newly planted maple tree.
Another creature living a second life in holiday celebrations is Spencer, the stuffed possum dropped every year in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Much like Jasper, the aforementioned flea of Eastover, the tradition gets its roots from the area’s former (albeit unofficial) name of “Possum Snout.” According to the event’s website, Spencer was originally found on the side of the road by local taxidermist Bud Jones and taken home to be brought back to life. Now, the marsupial has been reincarnated as a popular western Georgia tradition, lowered every year in an illuminated cage. The event even got national attention, featured on TLC’s once-popular show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
Brasstown, North Carolina, has a similar event to the one in Tallapoosa, but with one distinction: their possum is alive. The possum, stored in a plexiglass box and lowered at midnight, has been an on-and-off tradition for the residents of the town. Fierce battles between organizers and animal rights groups have sparked debate in and out of the courtroom over the ethical treatment of the possum, who is left in the cage during the event and subjected to loud noise by way of music and fireworks. For the 2014 celebration, a compromise was met with a pot of possum stew being lowered instead (a stew that was eaten the next day). However, last year, they returned to the original event. It is yet to be decided what will happen this New Year’s.
The possum festivities in Georgia and North Carolina served as inspiration for the people of Princess Anne, Maryland, when it came time to choose their aerial object of choice. Hunters in the area have a long history trapping muskrats, and with the word of possums spreading to the north, Princess Anne residents made a similar appointment. Yet, this is no ordinary muskrat. The stuffed marsh creature named Marshall is decorated in a top hat and a cape, and rides down a zipline to greet the midnight hour. The event also features a competition to crown a Queen Muskrat, a highly sought-after title that is won through a trivia contest. Although the event was inspired by possums, “frankly, we think a muskrat is a whole lot better-looking,” said Ben Adler, one of the creators of the event. And with an outfit like Marshall’s, who are we to argue?