Every New Year’s it seems more and more cities are trying to find something unique to drop out of the sky to not only mark the birth of another year, but to also express that city’s particular “personality” to the rest of the world. But that quest for uniqueness can also come off a bit goofy at times.
We know all about that here in Mobile, of course, as the famed MoonPie Drop each year brings both its share of joy and derision. City Councilman Fred Richardson will forever be linked with MoonPies for pushing the idea of dropping a large marshmallow cookie each year. Critics have always scoffed at the idea Mobile should be represented by a MoonPie — a Chattanooga MoonPie no less! — even though we are known for tossing lots of them at Mardi Gras. But it’s been hard to argue with the success of the MoonPie Drop, as it generally brings lots of folks downtown on New Year’s Eve.
This year’s MoonPie was pretty soggy, as the skies opened up and poor .38 Special was left to jam “Hold On Loosely” to a smaller-than-usual crowd of classic rock/mullet/sleeveless shirt devotees. But the event still did what it was supposed to do.
I happened to talk to a guy the next morning at the Battle House Hotel who had come down from Jasper, Alabama for the night to see the drop and enjoy a fine meal at Dauphin’s restaurant at the top of the Trustmark/RSA building. He raved about the food and the fun, although he seemed a little wistful about not being able to get out and fully rage on .38 Special. There’s a great example of out-of-town money coming to Mobile to watch a Chattanooga MoonPie slide down the side of a building.
All these various “drops” are, of course, a version of the famed crystal ball drop in New York City, but in Mobile we actually had our own special type of drop way before the MoonPie came to be. We call it the annual New Year’s Eve Lead Drop, and this year it was as big as ever.
I happened to be in the tony Oakleigh Garden District when the clock struck midnight and the gunfire was pretty impressive as people ran out in the streets and unloaded firearms into the air with nary a thought as to where the bullets might fall. Perhaps .38 Special would have been more apropos for “rockin’ into the night” in Washington Square. I wonder how many out-of-town visitors we get for the Lead Drop. The city should probably work up those economic impact numbers.
The MoonPie has been our shtick for quite a while now and other Alabama cities join the fun every year. Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately depending upon how you look at it — Dothan’s first drop made national news. Eager to showcase their goober greatness, “The Peanut Capital of the World” held its first “Nut Drop.” A large, lighted peanut was to be lowered from a crane in the city’s downtown. Unfortunately, a larger phallus-shaped net full of balloons next to the nut got most of the attention and has become a web sensation.
A photo originally posted to the city of Dothan’s Facebook page showed the floating phallus that has earned the city’s Nut Drop a level of notoriety I’m sure they didn’t expect. A Dothan man named Nick Trawick put a copy of the photo on his Facebook page before the city quickly deleted it. Maybe next year they can hire Nick to point out if anything related to the nut drop looks overtly penis-like. Still, there’s the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Certainly interest in the Nut Drop has been aroused.
Given the wild success Mobile and Dothan have experienced dropping, it’s a no-brainer for other Alabama cities to get in on the fun. Just a quick web search reveals some towns ripe for joining the ranks of New Year’s Eve droppers.
Russellville, known for its annual Watermelon Festival, is most poised for success. I envision a huge, illuminated watermelon being slowly lowered into the open hands of a large statue of the Luv Guv himself, Robert Bentley. That would be something to see.
Of course Elberta in Baldwin County is famed for its sausage festival. They could probably just borrow that net full of balloons from Dothan for the first year or two until they can afford their own weenie.
And can’t you imagine how cool a huge, mechanical rattlesnake would look being lowered in Opp — home of the annual rattlesnake festival. Maybe it could bite Baby New Year.
Cullman is known for its Sweet Tater Festival, just as Blount County is for its Covered Bridge Festival, and while neither of those are too sexy it would still be worth driving downtown to watch a covered bridge or potato lowered towards the sidewalk. Wouldn’t it?
Athens, Alabama could actually rip a page from Mobile’s playbook, as they are known for their annual Grease Festival. What’s one of the favorite treats at that fest? Fried Oreos. I’ve got to think a fried Oreo being lowered from a crane wouldn’t look much different than a MoonPie.
But the best would be if Fred Richardson’s tiny hometown of Nymph would recognize his leadership in making Alabama a place where it’s OK to lower ridiculous things from the sky in celebration of the New Year. I can see a huge papier mache Fred Richardson head being lowered by crane into an open ditch filled with used airline tickets.
It would be a beautiful start to any year. Somebody see if .38 Special is available.