Dave Parman and the Coatneys band will be rocking from 9 p.m. to midnight at the New Year’s Eve Watermelon Drop in downtown Vincennes. The free celebration will be Indiana’s last 2016 bicentennial event — just as it was the first bicentennial event of 2016. Organizers say that is appropriate as Vincennes is Indiana’s first city, founded in 1732.
The wildly wacky Watermelon Drop, near the riverfront at First and Main Street, will feature the popular Coatney band in a giant heated tent, which will also include a beer and wine sales area.
The tent will be near a famous “splatform” where 17 local watermelons will fall at midnight, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. It is an event that continues to grow, attracting national and international attention since it began in 2008. Three years ago, the Watermelon Drop attracted CNN’s live coverage during its New Year’s Eve show with an audience of more than two million viewers.
Illiana Watermelon Queen McKenzie McCain will welcome the audience and reign over the Watermelon Drop.
“We are delighted that the Watermelon Drop will be the last 2016 official legacy event of Indiana’s Bicentennial celebration. It’s only fitting that the place where Indiana history started will be the grand finale to this exciting year of statewide celebration,” said Mark Hill, chair of the Knox County Bicentennial Committee. Hill noted that the festival's site is historic, surrounded by the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Indiana's First Main Street and Indiana's legendary Wabash River — including the city’s new Riverwalk.
Since the Watermelon Drop began, it has attracted major attention for Vincennes and Indiana’s role in national watermelon production. In fact, two years ago, Smithsonian magazine choose a photo of Vincennes’ Watermelon Drop to illustrate its feature story, “From Possums to 200 Pounds of Bologna: Weird Things Cities Drop on New Year's Eve.” The article noted that crystal balls aren't the only things used to mark the New Year — in many places across the United States, cities drop objects that reflect local flavor and culture,” such as watermelons.
In 2015, the Watermelon Drop was also one of only two U.S. festivals listed by the British publication, The Guardian, in its list of the world’s “best small festivals,” as recommended by its readers. Joining the Watermelon Drop were festivals from Germany, Ireland, Italy, France, Switzerland, Vietnam and Ithaca, New York. The article, which featured a photo of Vincennes’ giant watermelon, also mentioned the community’s summer Watermelon Festival.
Past Watermelon Drops have been featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show and Country Living’s “7 Wacky Ways to Ring in the New Year.” The editors of the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor Inc. listed the event among its 2011 “Top Ten Quirkiest New Year’s Eve Celebrations in America” — a list that also included North Carolina’s Possum Drop and Alabama’s Moon Pie Drop.
“Where else but Vincennes can you watch a 500-pound watermelon rise high in the sky as midnight approaches, culminating in 17 Knox County watermelons dropped on our 'splatform' at the stroke of midnight — including fireworks? Add to that our rock band and Watermelon Queens and there really is no better way to ring in the New Year,” said Rick Linenburg, one of the founding members of the National Watermelon Drop Committee.
Linenburg said the committee is also proud that the Watermelon Drop is an annual favorite among the Vincennes Sun-Commercial’s Reader’s Choice Awards among festivals and community events. He said the awards reflect the community’s growing pride in the event as well as the watermelons that Knox County has become known for.
Since its creation in 2008, the 18-foot watermelon has become a star attraction in Vincennes, including being featured in the town's July 4th and Christmas parades, as well as its summer Watermelon Festival. People also enjoy sharing photographs and videos of themselves standing next to the 18-foot-long watermelon throughout the evening on New Year’s Eve.
The Watermelon Festival has come a long way since a few friends gathered at a small New Year’s party at a Vincennes home and asked themselves the question, “Why don’t we drop something in town to celebrate the new year?”
“It is incredible that this year, thanks to the generosity of many sponsors and donors, as well as our all-volunteer organization, we will again bring together this celebration that reflects the creativity and can-do spirit of the community that we love,” Linenburg said.
Calling the Watermelon Drop an “inspirational start to the New Year,” Linenburg said the poet laureate of Vincennes sums up the anticipation of
the growing number of fans of the event in this parody poem:
“‘Twas the night before New Year’s, when all through the town, all the
people were stirring and riverfront bound. The watermelons were shined and
stacked with care, in hopes to be selected for a launch through the air.
The revelers in Vincennes were all snug and well fed, while visions of
smashing watermelons danced in their head.”
According to the Illiana Watermelon Association, one of the sponsors of the Watermelon Drop, the credit for the wide popularity of Knox County’s great-tasting watermelons is ideal soil deposited by the great glaciers of the Ice Age. The result is thousands of acres of melon fields in and around Knox County that produce over 7,000 semi truckloads of watermelons every summer. As the county seat of Knox County, Vincennes features locally grown watermelons for its New Year’s Eve celebration.