By FRAN MAYE
New York City may be famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop, but Kennett Square is making noise of its own this year with a giant, lighted 700-pound stainless steel mushroom drop at midnight. Officials have dubbed the event “Midnight in the Square.”
Since it’s the first time for the event, borough officials have no idea how many people will show up. But because it has received national exposure – including a segment on Good Morning America – borough officials are preparing for a huge crowd.
“If the streets get overcrowded, what do you do?” said Kathy Lafferty, who is helping to organize the event. “It’s possible we could use the American Legion building (on State Street).
The 80-foot drop from a crane will take place in front of the Walker Building at State and Union streets. State Street between Broad and Center streets will be closed to traffic.
Lafferty said plans are to get some food trucks in to supplement some of the local eateries that will be open. “This will really be great for Liberty Place,” Lafferty said, referring to the building that houses several eateries, including a cheesesteak vendor, a pizza vendor, a coffee vendor, a wine vendor and a seafood vendor.
There is no admission fee, but visitors are encouraged to bring one non-perishable food item to be donated to the Kennett Food Cupboard, which will have a truck on site. It starts at 9 p.m. and the band “The Funsters” will entertain on State Street.
Construction of the 7-foot wide by 8-foot tall mushroom has been completed, and it’s now being outfitted with lights. The $6,000 cost to construct the mushroom was donated by To-Jo’s Mushrooms in Kennett Square. Bob’s Crane Co. has donated the crane to hoist the giant steel fungi. Manfredi Mushroom Co. and the Mushroom Farmers of Pa. donated the cost of the band.
Donations for the event are being solicited because there will be significant double time that will have to be paid to Kennett Square police officers, and the Kennett Square public works department.
“It’s like being a part of history,” Lafferty said, “for (businesses) to give a donation to be an official supporter for the first year.”
To accommodate the crowd, there will be a shuttle service from the Exelon parking lot just outside of town. Visitors will get dropped off near Apple Alley.
Local hotels, including the Hilton Garden Inn off Baltimore Pike, say reservations for New Year’s Eve are being booked at a rapid clip.
And it will be an annual event Lafferty said.
“We don’t have much time left,” Lafferty said. “This thing has hit 38 states and the Associated Press picked it up. I’ve had someone in here who said a friend called from Seattle and they say it in the paper out there. We really don’t know how many people to expect.”
Kennett Square council recently gave their approval for the event.
“I think it’s a terrific idea,” said Councilor Geoff Bosley. “It will be fun to see and it’s something that will grow every year.”
“I think it’s a fun idea,” said Dan Maffei, council president.
The idea for the mushroom drop came from State Rep. John Lawrence, who figured it would be fitting since the Kennett area region produces more than 11 million pounds of mushrooms a week, and Kennett Square is globally recognized as the Mushroom Capital of the World.
Kennett Square isn’t the only town hosting an unusual New Year celebrations. In Bethlehem, Pa., an 85-pound statue of a Marshmallow Peep will be lowered. In Easton, Pa., a 10-foot tall Crayon will be dropped.