Welcome 2014 with a sardine, golf ball, Moon Pie

Three, two one…In Mobile, when the Moon Pie lands the bussing begins. Photo credit: Three, two one…In Mobile, when the Moon Pie lands the bussing begins.

In 1908, the citizens of the sea-faring city of New York decided to honor the arrival of the New Year by dropping a ball.

Using a ball to count down gave an appreciative and historic nod to the sailing industry's legacy in the city. It was also a logical choice in the early 20th century. Sailors calibrated the time balls inside a ship's chronometer to keep it in line with Greenwich Mean Time, which in turn kept ships sailing in the right direction.

The association with sailing is long forgotten, but ball dropping on New Year's Eve? It went viral 100 years ago and still is circling the planet. In the United States, New York has the lock on largest crowds, often more than 1 million live bodies in Times Square. Yet, for creative hoopla, get out of the Big Apple.

Just about midnight all over the country on Dec. 31, hometown and homegrown folk stuff takes center stage. With an open attitude and in the spirit of the season, you decide which is the best.

Care to welcome 2014 with a "giant" sardine? How about an enormous Moon Pie or cheer a stuffed muskrat that is dressed in formalwear? All (and more) are at the ready to close the door on 2013 and embrace a new year.


Say it with food

You may go to Traverse City, Mich., for sophisticated dining at Stella's and the wonderful wine trails on the Leelanau Peninsula. But on New Year's Eve, the big news is a giant "Montmorency cherry" that welcomes the New Year.

At 9 p.m. in Easton, Md., residents gather to count the descent of a red crab as part of First Night festivities. In Eastport, Maine, they prefer to drop a 10-foot sardine sculpture as homage to the area's herring heritage.

A dead fish highlights New Year's Eve Fish in Prairie du Chien, Wis., where a locally caught and hefty (but dead) carp is lowered by crane onto a stylized throne on Blackhawk Avenue. New Year's Eve festivities begin with a 9 p.m. bonfire and live entertainment until the countdown. The carp is named "Lucky" and usually tips the scale between 25 and 30 pounds. Why "Lucky" and why a carp? To represent the area's fishing industry and because the carp is symbolic of good fortune in Chinese culture.

Bartlesville, Okla., uses an olive to welcome in the New Year; it descends to splash into an oversized martini glass. In Mount Olive, S.C.? A pickle.

Symbols are a bit sweeter in the south. In Florida, Sarasota gilts a pineapple so it glows as it descends to welcome in the New Year. In Mobile, Ala.? A giant Moon Pie.

Last year, 60,000 people showed up to watch a 12-foot Moon Pie be lowered from a 34-floor skyscraper in downtown Mobile. This Moon Pie, unlike the ones that are normally sold as a chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker confection, is electrified for the occasion. Garden & Gun magazine named the Mobile New Year's as the top celebration in the South.

Symbolic welcome


Someone, sometime in Princess Anne, Md., suggested that a stuffed muskrat costumed in formal wear with a top hat would be the ideal mascot to drop to welcome a new year.

On Hilton Head Island, S.C., a giant lighted golf ball is lowered; in Des Plaines, Ill., a diamond (not real, not one single crystal) is dropped.

In Houston, Texas, two drops welcome revelers. At the Noon Ball Drop, families join in at the Children's Museum of Houston for a New Year's Noon party. At midnight, a Lone Star State star is raised at midnight for adults.

The elevator at the Space Needle in Seattle glides to the top floor to cue midnight fireworks for New Year's at the Needle. While in Nashville, aka Music City, a 15-foot musical note does the honors.

In Bain, Pa., a wooden cow does not jump over the moon, but leaps from a silo; in Cleona, Pa., a pretzel is hoisted. In Dillsburg, two pickles are dropped — one for midnight on Central Standard Time and the other for Eastern Standard Time.

Back in New York, the world's most famous New Year's drop is a glittering orb made of Waterford Crystal. During the '80s, the city switched to dropping an apple but learned its lesson, returned to its roots and reinstated a ball drop.

If you can't get to New York for New Year's Eve, stop to see the Waterford creation at One Times Square, where it is permanently displayed throughout the year. Or watch for its close-up on television later this month when tens of millions of people tune in to greet the New Year.


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