Cheré Dastugue Coen
5 Ways to be Weird on New Year’s
New York may dominate the news when New Year’s Eve rolls around but the South has its own countdown at midnight and some are quite unique.
Salute a MoonPie
They may drop a crystal bowl on Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve but the moon comes out in Mobile. It’s MoonPie Over Mobile, where a 12-foot-tall, 600-pound MoonPie descends 34 stories from the RSA BankTrust building in downtown Mobile when 2023 rolls in at midnight. The theme this year is “Born to Celebrate,” and the night includes a second line parade, fireworks, a laser light show and live performances by both local and regional artists – including headliner Third Eye.
Why a MoonPie? Since the 1950s, MoonPies were the “throw” of choice during Mardi Gras parades. As the story goes, Mobilians used to throw boxes of Cracker Jacks into the crowds, but those have hard, sharp edges; MoonPies offer a softer landing. Today, it’s estimated that residents consume more than 4 million of these marshmallow sandwiches each year. So it’s only natural that Mobile would partner with Chattanooga Bakery (where MoonPies are made) to create the electronic MoonPie that drops on the eve of Dec. 31. The bakery also creates the World’s Largest MoonPie each year, which is served to the public earlier in the evening.
Reflecting the city’s French heritage, a giant fleur de lis falls over the crowd from the top of Jax Brewery in New Orleans, followed by a 15-minute fireworks display over the Mississippi River. Naturally, there’s live music throughout the French Quarter and the city and the 800 block of Bourbon Street hosts a special LGBTQ celebration. For more information, click here.
For a list of restaurants open on New Year’s Eve, because who doesn't go to New Orleans without enjoying the cuisine, click here.
For a more family-friendly celebration, the Louisiana Children's Museum presents its own New Year’s Eve fun but instead of midnight, it starts at a more respectable hour — which also allows mom and dad to attend the adult festivities in the nearby French Quarter.
Pirates and Drag Queens
For New Year’s Eve, Key West drops several items: A large conch shell from the top of the famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a “pirate wench” from the Tall Ship America 2.0 schooner’s mast in the harbor and a large Key lime wedge splashing down into a larger-than-life margarita glass on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort & Spa. And then there’s drag queen “Sushi” who descends from the Bourbon St. Pub balcony on a bright red six-foot-high heel on to revelers on Duval Street. For more information, click here.
Hear The Bells
About 15 minutes before midnight, the courthouse bell in Fincastle, Va., begins ringing in this quaint town that dates back to the 1700s. Then, at 12-second intervals, the church bells in town answer in a clockwise order. This continues until the courthouse bell strikes midnight. Taps are then played to signify respect for the dying year and three shotgun blasts indicate the New Year has arrived and bells ring for an additional 10 minutes. The Bells of Fincastle New Year’s Eve tradition dates back 150 years.
Take The Plunge
You’ll never get me in frigid winter waters, but at Tellico Lake in Loudon, Tenn., folks do just that for the annual East Tennessee Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. The East Tennessee Polar Plunge benefits the non-profit, non-partisan Watershed Association of the Tellico Reservoir, which supports practices that promote clean air, water and natural habitat.
Want to take the plunge? Advance registration is available and will save you $5, but on the day of the event, registration takes place from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Tellico Lake. The cost is $35 adults and $25 for ages 17 and under. Spectator donations are welcome. All registrants will receive a souvenir 2023 East Tennessee Polar Plunge long-sleeve T-shirt.