By Steven Hoffman
In New York City, they drop a large crystal ball in Times Square while most of the country watches. In Atlanta, Georgia, they lower a peach to mark the arrival of a new year. In Vincennes, Indiana, they raise a 500-pound steel and foam watermelon at midnight and this replica releases 11 very real and locally grown watermelons. Closer to home, Lebanon, Pennsylvania lowers a giant bologna to mark the new year. In Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, it's two pickles that are featured in the New Year's Eve celebration.
And now, Kennett Square will be ringing in 2014 with a New Year’s Eve celebration befitting the Mushroom Capital of the World—a large mushroom will be suspended from a crane 80 feet in the air and lowered just as the New Year arrives.
Kathi Lafferty, the volunteer coordinator for the popular Mushroom Festival that attracts 100,000 visitors to town each September, unveiled plans for the New Year's Eve celebration, which is being called Midnight in the Square, at Monday night's Kennett Square Borough Council meeting.
The giant mushroom will measure seven and a half feet high and eight feet wide. It will be lowered in the vicinity of the Franklin Center.
Lafferty said that it was State Representative John Lawrence who mentioned the idea of incorporating a mushroom in a New Year's Eve celebration. She said that she was amazed at how many small Pennsylvania towns have festivities focused on a local industry. Indeed, a few Google searches reveal that Pennsylvania leads the league in these New Year's celebrations.
Lafferty said that while time was short to plan this year's celebration, everyone has responded enthusiastically to what could quickly turn into a Kennett Square tradition. Mushroom Festival, Inc. is partnering with the Kennett Area Restaurant and Merchants Association to sponsor the first event.
“I think it’s pretty neat,” Lafferty said. “Everybody’s pretty excited.”
The event received a real boost when Bob’s Crane Service of Kennett Square offered the use of a crane for free. There is hope that Longwood Gardens might be able to provide lighting for the mushroom.
Lafferty said that there are still many details being worked out, but she is really excited about the prospect of having the merchants in town involved.
Leon Spencer, well known for his abilities as a master of ceremonies at public events, has agreed to serve in that role for the new event.
Food and beverages will be available during the celebration, though details are still being worked out as to how many restaurants in town will be able to participate since this is already one of the busiest evenings of the year. There will be music, too.
“Involving the merchants is something that is very good,” Lafferty said.
So far, Lafferty said, the event has received nothing but positive responses.
Council member Geoff Bosley expressed his enthusiasm for the event when council approved the Special Events Application.
“I think it will be fantastic and fun to see,” he said.
Lafferty said that attendance to the event will be free, but everyone who attends is asked to bring a non-perishable food item that will be donated to the Kennett Food Cupboard.