To ring in the new year on a positive note, here's an idea for bolstering the wintertime economy of the Kenai Peninsula: At midnight on New Year's Eve, lower something to the ground.
I don't understand why, but lowering things on New Year's Eve gets people all excited. Excited people eat, drink and spend money they don't have on things they don't need. As I understand it, that's what makes the economy go round.
In Times Square, they lower a ball. In Wisconsin, they lower a frozen carp. In Ohio, they lower a 20-foot fiberglass walleye. At Tallapoosa, Georgia, they lower a road-killed opossum. In Beavertown, Pennsylvania, they lower a 6-foot replica of a beaver from a 75-foot hook-and-ladder fire truck. In Princess Anne, Maryland, they "drop" a stuffed muskrat dressed in a bow tie and top hat.
I'm not making this stuff up. The town of Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin (pop. about 6,000) prides itself as a fishing town. Every New Year's Eve for the past 11, the town has attracted visitors from far and wide to its Droppin' of the Carp. They catch a 25- to 30-pound carp from the nearby Mississippi River, freeze it and lower it at the appropriate time. After the drop, people are allowed to have photos taken with the carp, and to kiss it for good luck. The festivities include games, a bonfire and fireworks, all of which revolves around the lowering to the ground of a dead fish.
On New Year's Eve at Brasstown, North Carolina, thousands of revelers turn out for the traditional lowering of a live opossum in a plexiglass box from the roof of Clay Logan's gas station. Brasstown has a population of 240, according to Logan, and claims to be the Opossum Capital of the World. It's New Year's Eve program includes a church choir, a bull riding competition and a cross-dressing beauty contest.
In Tallapoosa, Georgia, (pop. 3,100) the annual New Year's Eve Possum Drop draws thousands of people to its event, which includes live music and fireworks. One blissful couple exchanged wedding vows during the drop, being pronounced man and wife precisely at the tender moment that the stuffed, road-killed possum touched down.
At Port Clinton, Ohio (pop. 6,000 or so), they lower a 20-foot, 600-pound fiberglass walleye named "Wylie Walleye" from a crane. Droves of euphoric revelers mill around in the frigid air while wolfing down Walleye Chowder, Walleye Sandwiches, Walleye Cinnamon Chips, and Walleye Popcorn. A local winery offers a "Walleye White," created especially for the occasion. Crowd-pleasing events held during the New Year's Eve just past included a rock-paper-scissors contest and a "Touch the Truck" event, with real trucks available for the touching.
I suggest that Soldotna ought to jump into this lowering game. A humpback salmon could be lowered from the bridge over the Kenai River in Soldotna.
Why a "humpy?" Imagine the T-shirts it would spawn. Punster artist Ray Troll could paint humpy-themed murals on the walls of sponsoring businesses. An Ugliest Humpy contest could be held in August. The winning fish would be a spawned-out male with grotesque hooked jaws, a huge hump on its back and patches of fungus covering its body. The person who caught it--or found it rotting on the bank--would assume the title of king or queen of the Humpy Drop. The crowning would occur on New Year's Eve, complete with appropriate fanfare and hullaballoo.
I can just see it. An expectant crowd would line the bridge and the banks of the Kenai, bundled against the cold. A humpy so ugly it's beautiful, a veritable Abe Lincoln of a humpy, hangs from the bridge by a wire, revolving slowly, lighted by so many floodlights that snow and ice have melted for a half-mile in all directions.
As the countdown to midnight begins, and "Harley Humpy" slowly descends to the water below, the moiling crowd falls silent. A woman member of the community choir with a heartbreakingly plaintive voice sings, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind," and then the whole choir joins in. At the stroke of midnight, just as Harley enters the frigid Kenai, the Soldotna High School Band joins the choir, along with the thousands of onlookers. At the moment Harley Humpy is released, a fireworks display like none before lights the sky. People wearing "Humpies, ya gotta love 'em!" Tee-shirts mill around, eating "Humpy Chips," "Harley Hamburgers" and drinking "Humpback Lite." Cash registers ring like jingle bells.
I get a lot of ideas that go nowhere, but this one just might have some merit.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.