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A photo of fireworks during a NYE celebration in Idaho
Photograph: Idaho New Year's Commission

9 weird but wonderful New Year’s Eve events in the USA

Beyond NYC's iconic ball, the kookiest New Year’s Eve events count down with oddball totems (like a 17-foot potato)

Written by
Emilee Lindner
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Forget NYC's Time Square ball drop: the weirdest New Year's Eve events and traditions throughout the USA deliver way more fun and kitsch if you don’t keep your eye on the ball. Across the country, towns celebrate the countdown to New Year’s their own special, kooky way with “drops” that feature absurdly large items lowered at midnight.

These celebratory totems—from an oversized pickle to a massive potato and even a stuffed possum—lean into the locale’s eccentric spirit and represent something about the town’s unique industry, traditions, or history. After all, it’s already weird enough to stay up past midnight just to watch time go by, so why not take it over the top? Dive into the weirdest New Year’s traditions in the USA and maybe you’ll have a few things to add to your bucket list.

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New Year’s events in the USA

Sure, you may love soft marshmallowy PEEPS during the holidays (there’s a reason they made our list of the best Christmas candies in the USA), but we guarantee you don’t love them as much as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As the birthplace of the sugary treat, Bethlehem lowers a 400-pound chick on New Year’s Eve. It’s part of the town’s annual PEEPSFEST, a celebration that features tastings of unique PEEPS flavors, a scavenger hunt, and other family-friendly activities. There’s also a diorama competition, where contestants enter tiny scenes made of Peeps — it really doesn’t get any cuter.

In 1999, a group of employees at North Carolina’s Mt. Olive Pickle Company gathered around a giant pickle to ring in the New Year — decades later, the tradition is bigger than ever before. Garnering thousands of attendees every year, the celebration centers on a three-and-a-half-foot illuminated pickle that the local fire department lowers into a redwood tank. Accompanied by a food drive for the local food bank (not to mention a solid display of fireworks), the event is so wholesome that it takes place at 7pm (just enough time for briny revelry tucking the little ones in for bedtime).

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MoonPie is a way of life in the South, but no show of love for the sweet treat is quite as over the top as MoonPie Over Mobile. Since 2008, over 50,000 people flock every year to downtown Mobile, Alabama, to see a 600-pound and 12-foot-tall lighted MoonPie descend the RSA BankTrust building at midnight. There’s live music (headlined by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue in 2021-2022) and the world’s largest MoonPie (a real one) that’s cut and served to the public.

Potatoes are versatile. They can be French fries, mashed, baked, boiled, smashed, crisped, and… they can even be dropped at midnight. For nine years, Boise’s famous 17-foot glowing potato has been the star of a New Year’s Eve celebration that includes a ski and snowboard competition, a cameo from lovable mascot Spuddy Buddy, and a wrestling match that declares the winner of the Potato Belt Championship. If you’re truly a potato head, you’ll buy the VIP option (Very Important Potato) for craft cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, raffles, a dance floor, and a 360 view of that giant spud.

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In a nod to the fishing town’s industrious history with herrings, the people of Eastport—the U.S.’s easternmost city and Maine’s least populous city—watch as an eight-foot sardine descends upon the town. Covered in Christmas lights, the monstrous fish is a magnet for New Year’s kisses; before COVID, it was once considered good luck to smooch the sardine. Although there’ll be no kisses this year, the celebration will still include in-person and virtual experiences. And, in honor of their Canadian neighbors across the bay, Eastport residents also ring in their New Year at 11 am with a large, extravagant maple leaf.

New Year’s Eve can be cheesy, especially in Wisconsin. Plymouth hails itself as the Cheese Capital of the World (more than 14% of all cheese consumed in the USA moves through the small city), so it makes sense that on New Year’s Eve they drop a giant piece of cheese. Instead of hanging around until midnight, the Plymouth Fire Department lowers a massive wedge of Sartori BellaVitano Gold Cheese at 10 pm to keep the event more family-friendly—but not without a champagne toast and cheese gift bags, of course.

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Bologna Drop: Lebanon, PA

The state of Pennsylvania really loves their New Year’s Eve drops. Across the state, you’ll find coal in Wilkes-Barre, a strawberry in Harrisburg, and a Hershey Kiss in (duh) Hershey. Almost all of the weird and wonderful things dropped at midnight are facsimiles, but there’s a notable exception in Lebanon’s annual Bologna Drop. There’s no replica of bologna in this celebration—only the real deal. A whopping 20 pounds of bologna are attached to a disco ball and lowered by a crane in downtown Lebanon to ring in the new year. After the big event, Godshall’s, the business that provides the meat, donates the (safely wrapped) bologna and about 130 pounds more to people in need.

The good people of Tallapoosa, Georgia, know how to have a good, weird time. They lower a stuffed (we repeat: stuffed) possum at midnight as an ode to the town’s nickname, Possum Snout, coined in the early 1800s. Oh, and if you’re wondering if the possum has a name, it’s Spencer (after Ralph L. Spencer, a businessman credited with Tallapoosa’s rise). Over the years, the Possum Drop has drawn people from around the country (who wouldn’t want to see a taxidermied marsupial IRL?) for entertainment, food, and kid-friendly activities. And for the little ones, they’ve got Spencer on double duty: there’s an early Possum Drop at 9 pm.

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You won’t need to drool too much as a giant donut lowers from the sky in Hagerstown, Maryland, because with any luck you’ll have one in your hand; Krumpe’s Do-nuts, a local town favorite for over 80 years, passes out donuts to the first 5,000 people. There’s also free hot chocolate and coffee, but you won’t need a caffeine boost to stay awake until midnight—the donut drops at 6:59 pm, which means you can have your snack, watch the fireworks, and still be in bed at a reasonable hour.

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