Many of us wait up until midnight to watch the ball drop from Time’s Square in New York City. But a lot of other cities participate in New Year’s Eve celebrations, and some of them drop some very strange things, such as in that “other” Manhattan (“The Little Apple” as opposed to “The Big Apple”), in Kansas, where a red delicious apple is dropped at midnight from a building at the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Broadway.
Other cities drop other oversized items: Atlanta, Georgia drops an 800-pound peach; Gainesville Georgia (“the poultry capital of the world”) drops a chicken; Plymouth, Wisconsin drops a big block of cheese at midnight. Prescott, Arizona drops a cowboy boot and Show Low, Arizona drops a two of clubs. Pennsylvania probably has the biggest number of unusual drops, including a giant wooden sled (Duncannon, Pennsylvania), a giant marshmallow Peep (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), a 700-pound stainless steel mushroom (outside of Philadelphia), a 16-foot Lebanon Bologna in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a giant strawberry in Harrisburg, and a giant crayon in Easton, inter alia.
A relatively new popular event takes place in Mobile, Alabama. Ever since New Year’s Eve in 2008, a twelve-foot tall electronic MoonPie is dropped from a 34-story building. The event is known as “MoonPie Over Mobile.” (A traditional MoonPie consists of two round graham cracker cookies with marshmallow filling in the center, dipped in chocolate.)
Chattanooga Bakery started making MoonPies in 1917, in response to a request from local coal miners who wanted something they could eat without stopping for an actual break which they couldn’t take. When the bakery salesman asked how big this treat should be, a miner held out his hands, framed the moon, and said, “About that big!”
You may ask, isn’t Chattanooga in Tennessee? Why does a MoonPie drop in Mobile? The answer is related to Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras in Mobile is the oldest annual Carnival celebration in the United States, having started in 1703. This was fifteen years before New Orleans was founded, although today the celebrations in New Orleans are more widely known. (Mobile, it should be noted, was the first capital of French Louisiana, which is not the same thing as The Louisiana Territory. A map of French Louisiana is shown below).
In Mobile, some 33 different groups stage the major parades each year for Mardi Gras over a three-week periods.
During the parades, members of societies (“krewes”) on floats toss gifts known as throws to the public, that might include plastic beads, doubloon coins, decorated plastic cups, candy, wrapped cakes/snacks, stuffed animals, and small toys, footballs, frisbees, or whistles. It used to be that Cracker Jacks were thrown, but their rectangular boxes could injure people, and they were banned in the early Seventies. MoonPies had been used by some as throws since the 1950‘s, but after the Cracker Jack ban, the soft wrapped treat took over as the signature throw. In 2012, more than 3 million Moon Pies were tossed from floats. With the MoonPie now being an unofficial emblem of Mobile, and Mardi Gras being very big business in Mobile, the MoonPie was first used for the New Year’s Eve drop in 2008. In addition, the Chattanooga Bakery creates a giant edible MoonPie to carve up for partiers.