Don't drink and drop Officials fear big turnout for New Year's Eve mushroom celebration could mean alcohol problems

Photo by Kristin Hess A dry-run test of the New Year’s Eve mushroom drop took place Sunday in Kennett Square.
Photo by Kristin Hess A dry-run test of the New Year’s Eve mushroom drop took place Sunday in Kennett Square.

KENNETT SQUARE — The dry-run drop of the huge stainless steel mushroom went without a hitch Sunday, and now organizers are wondering just how many people will come to the borough’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

And with New Year’s Eve being a traditionally big drinking night, borough officials are grappling with how they can enforce the borough’s open container law.

“The challenge we face with an event like this — it’s a nighttime, evening, adult drinking event — we are trying to figure out how to curb that and keep it contained so people can have a good experience,” Mayor Matt Fetick said.

Despite the festivity and excitement of the event, Fetick said, police will be on the lookout for drinkers on the streets.

“We’re going to be very clear on enforcing our alcohol ordinances,” Fetick said. “There can be no open containers of alcohol consumed on the streets. If people bring alcohol with them, we will try to get ahead of it and make them understand this is a family-friendly event. We’re not looking to attract 2-, 3- or 4,000 drunk adults. That is not our intent; but we know that may be part of it.”

Some local businesses, including nearby Kennett Square Inn, Half Moon Restaurant and LaVerona Restaurant, serve alcohol, but that alcohol must be consumed inside the business. It is a violation of the state’s liquor law to allow patrons to carry alcohol out of the restaurant.

Kennett Square Police Chief Ed Zunino said two officers normally would be assigned to an event like this, but because thousands of people are expected, eight officers will be on the streets for New Year’s Eve.

“This will put a strain on our public resources,” Fetick said. “We have to have police officers and public works officers working on New Year’s Eve. But we can’t put our head in the sand. This thing is out, and we can’t put a steel fence around the borough and say don’t come in. People are coming regardless of what we do. Now we have to figure it out.”

The stainless-steel mushroom, which measures 8 feet high by 8 feet wide, will be dropped from about 100 feet in the air from a crane at State and Union streets. The big mushroom will be lit and should be visible for miles around. It will descend slowly just minutes before midnight. A live band will entertain visitors beginning at 9 p.m.

“The mushroom itself is very impressive,” Fetick said.

Some Borough Council members said they never would have approved the application had they known it would attract so much attention. Council approved the application with only two months’ notice.

“Thanks to the wonders of today’s digital press, this has expanded much beyond what we thought,” Fetick said. “It was picked by the Associated Press and was even on Good Morning America. We have a lot of signals that there will be a lot of people at the mushroom drop. It has exceeded the event that was approved by council.”

The bottom line, Fetick said, is that borough officials want to ensure the drop is a safe event.

“We know a lot of people are coming and we want to make it safe,” Fetick said. “We don’t want a lot of pushing and shoving for people to see the mushroom drop. And our intend it to not have thousands of drinking people come to downtown Kennett Square.”

Police will close off nearby streets beginning at 7 p.m. New Year’s Eve.

About the Author

Fran Maye

Fran Maye is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of Shippensburg University. He and his wife Marianne live in East Marlborough. He enjoys golf and is a 4.0 tennis player. Reach the author at kennettpaper@gmail.com or follow Fran on Twitter: @kennettpaper.

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