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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 5 years ago

Pineapple drop is sweet success


After a year without a pineapple drop, the party is back on this New Year’s Eve.

The downtown New Year’s event was canceled in November last year, mainly because of a lack of sponsor support. The move upset downtown business owners and event-goers.

Some downtown restaurants and bars saw a drop in business on New Year’s Eve because of fewer people out celebrating. One restaurant owner said he lost about $10,000 in business because of the canceled event, said Ernie Ritz, the organizer of the event.

“The cost of production has maintained about the same, however, community support and sponsor support is lagging,” Ritz wrote in a September 2011 letter to the Downtown Sarasota Alliance (DSA).

Ritz, a downtown advocate and chairman of the Downtown Improvement District, first had the idea for an orange drop for the millennium in 2000, and it has taken place every year — except 2011. In 2005, it became a pineapple drop.

This year, Ritz said the event is back and better than ever — with a kids carnival, four live bands and food and drinks, in addition to the pineapple drop at the corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue.

“It will be like Times Square, but not cold,” Ritz said.

The pineapple, which is 7 feet tall, has been in storage since New Year’s Eve 2010, when about 30,000 people came to watch the pineapple drop at midnight.

The custom pineapple, made by a local toymaker in 2005, has been in a warehouse and will get a tune up before the upcoming event. It will be plugged in so that any broken bulbs can be identified and replaced.

Ritz has been working with longtime downtown events organizer Paul Thorpe to put on the upcoming New Year’s festivities.

Soon after the event was canceled last year, Ritz and Thorpe began brainstorming how to bring it back, and they set up a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so they could apply for permits and raise funding to put on the event.

“I (had) invited company (last year), and they wanted to see the pineapple drop,” Thorpe said.

So far, Ritz has secured the permits for the events, and sponsors have signed up to fund the cost of live music. A stage will be set up downtown.

Organizers are still seeking sponsors to help pay for the $50,000 to put on the event. Anything raised above and beyond the $50,000 will go toward future downtown events — including decorating the miniature oaks trees that line Main Street for Christmas.

The popularity of the Times Square ball drop has inspired other “drops” throughout the United States — including an orange drop in Miami, a queen conch shell drop in Key West, a peach drop in Atlanta, a sardine drop in Eastport, Maine, a red crab drop in Easton, Md., a pickle drop in Mount Olive, N.C., and a liberty bell drop in Allentown, Pa.

Dec. 31, Ritz and organizers will light up the pineapple as soon as they get it hanging above Main and Lemon.

“We want it to be glowing when darkness falls,” Ritz said.

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