The Daily Pulse:

What to drop?

As the retiring New Year's Baby of 2012, I'm obliged to offer a few parting remarks, and maybe to raise a question. I've been party to this bar conversation more than once in recent years: What should Knoxville drop?

Other cities in the region drop, or dunk, something festive: a giant shrimp, or a live possum, or a crown, or a peach, or a pickle, or an acorn, or a guitar. It's something distinctive to each town, and it allows each city to do something reminiscent of the Times Square tradition without seeming slavishly imitative. What Knoxville should drop is less than obvious. A big orange? A red panda? A mountain bike? A quart of white lightnin?

At the moment, Knoxville just drops a ball. It doesn't seem distinctive or imaginative. But we could argue that Knoxville owns that ball. The guy who started the ball-drop tradition in Times Square, more than a century ago--in fact the guy who created Times Square--was a former longtime Knoxvillian. Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times from 1896 to 1935, began his career in journalism on our own Market Square, 140 years ago. The office of the Knoxville Chronicle, where he worked as a typesetter, was in the northeastern quarter of the Square, probably near Preservation Pub.

Around 1900 Ochs started the New Year's Eve midnight-party tradition, originally with fireworks, the way folks had celebrated Christmas Eve back in Knoxville, but when New York banned his fireworks, he shifted to the amazing electrically lighted ball.

Knoxville has never really embraced its association with the origins of the American New Year's Eve celebration, and I don't know why we can't figure out some way to celebrate that. Maybe we could do something relevant to Ochs's late nights working on the Square (he spent many midnights here) and drop some hot type.

The suspension of the multi-venue First Night party is something to regret, but people will be out, going to big shows, ice skating, doing cheerful things in public. Maybe there will be more to it next year.

For now, I'm just grateful that on New Year's we've dragged ourselves away from the TV, and are making a real celebration of the thing.

Happy New Year, folks. Get out and enjoy it.

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