Not everyone will be toasting 2012 with champagne. In Bartlesville, OK, the biggest drink is, literally, a martini: locals drop a massive olive into a glass from the top of a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed skyscraper.
New Year’s Eve is ultimately about the countdown, and it’s made official when something drops at midnight. Across America, places like Bartlesville have gotten creative. Some wacky drops pay tribute to local products or tastes, while others just go all-out outrageous. Whether you’re braving the crowds or watching in a hotel room, cheering a drop is part of the year-end spectacle—before the hangover and resolutions kick in.
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The ball drop tradition dates back only to the early 1900s, when New York Times owner Alfred Ochs, whose offices were in Times Square, convinced the city to let him throw a grand party. The first 400-pound iron and wood orb featured 100 bulbs and was lowered down a flagpole. Now it’s an 11,875-pound, 12-foot geodesic globe encrusted with 2,688 Waterford crystals.
Roughly a million people flock to see that Times Square ball in person, and millions more tune in around the world. There’s a shared quality to the scenes of fireworks, noisemakers, and partygoers in public squares and crowded bars that flash across TV screens as time zone after time zone counts down. But which object gets dropped is very much a local choice.
Take Key West, FL, which may not have Waterford crystals, but makes its own flamboyant New Year’s statement. For more than a decade, locals have cheered outside a bar on Duval Street as a red ruby high-heeled shoe —with a drag queen named Sushi seated inside—is lowered from the balcony.
There are actual food drops, too, that offer a visual bite of local delicacies. Atlanta, for instance, releases an 800-pound fiberglass-and-foam peach. Known for its multimillion-dollar melon industry, Vincennes, IN, raises an 18-foot watermelon into the sky, which then opens to release 12 real Knox County watermelons.
Read on for our complete list of wacky New Year’s drops—worth celebrating no matter where you ring in 2012. —Alix Strauss