Walleye Madness committee members Mark Matousek, left, Port Clinton Mayor Vince Leone, Don Clemons, and Marty Mortus discuss fine points for the drop of the 600-pound fiber-glass walleye. This year’s ritual will be the 16th.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Editor's note: This version adds the chicken drop festivities planned in Delta, Ohio, for New Year's Eve.
PORT CLINTON — A 600-pound fiber-glass fish has hooked thousands of revelers on a New Year’s Eve tradition in Port Clinton.
Wylie Walleye drops from a crane as crowds gather on Madison Street in this Lake Erie community — known as the Walleye Capital of the World — to count the seconds until midnight.
Meanwhile, in Waterville, a life-size mannequin of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne will be in the spotlight in a similar ceremony.
Organizers of the Port Clinton event said the descent today can be watched on The Late Show with David Letterman. The CBS program contacted organizers to arrange to show bits from the drop, said Don Clemons, chairman of the Walleye Madness at Midnight committee.
The TV interest has brought extra buzz to the 16th annual event. “I think it adds a lot to it,” said Bill Yuhasz, who owns several businesses near the celebration site.
Representatives for The Late Show could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve are the year’s busiest time at Mr. Yuhasz’s Great Lakes Popcorn Co. The shop will stay open until 12:30 a.m., allowing 30 minutes of shopping and munching after the fish drops.
He uses stanchions to control the long lines and “wall-to-wall” customers that converge at the store. His restaurant and bar business, Kokomo Bay and Mango Mama’s, also hops on the last night of the year.
“I say it’s my happiest night, and my most miserable night, all wrapped into one,” he said, of the benefits and challenges the night’s brisk business brings.
Mr. Clemons, owner of America’s Best Value Inn, said his hotel sold out its 41 rooms for New Year’s Eve. Organizers estimate 5,000 to 10,000 people show up for the annual celebration.
New Year’s Eve festivities begin at 4 p.m. with children’s activities outside and at the Knights of Columbus hall on Perry Street.
At 6 p.m., children watch a smaller version of the walleye drop inside the hall. Beginning at 6 p.m., a disc jockey will play music on an outdoor stage.
More than a dozen vendors will offer food from pizza to fish sandwiches. A digital clock counts down the time.
Organizers are planning a different descent for the fish this year, although they are keeping the details a secret. Fireworks follow the drop.
Employees at Mendoza’s Restaurant, which is near the festivities, will take a quick break to watch 2012’s fishy finale before customers return to eat and drink. Owner Lali Mendoza said the walleye event provides a needed spike in business during the winter, when the tourist town is typically quiet.
“After the walleye drop, we’ve got three months to wait until St. Patrick’s,” she said.
Roughly 50 miles to the west, customers and townspeople will gather outside Mad Anthony’s Tavern in Waterville to watch as a life-size mannequin of Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, dressed in a rented costume, complete with a tricorn hat and white-powdered wig, is lowered from the roof.
The bar empties just before midnight to see the spectacle. Tavern owner Kim Crawford said she’s seen children in pajamas come to watch.
General Wayne is remembered in part for his troops’ victory over Indian tribes in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, near what is now Maumee.
The Waterville event is “like the walleye drop in Port Clinton, ... we’ve got the general drop,” said Ms. Crawford, who called the New Year’s Eve scene “pretty festive.”
“I’d like it to be a community event, but I haven’t found any entities that want to take it over,” she said.
The village of Delta, in Fulton County, will drop a 6-foot costumed, fake chicken at midnight from a fire truck ladder on Wood Street on the west side of Delta Memorial Hall. The New Year’s Eve celebration is a new event for the village of roughly 3,000 and serves as the kickoff to a year’s worth of sesquicentennial celebrations.
The village was incorporated in 1863 and plans a series of events throughout 2013 to mark the anniversary. It chose to celebrate the new year with a chicken drop in honor of the village’s biggest event -- the annual Delta Chicken Festival.
Today’s family friendly activities begin at 9 p.m. with refreshments, a disc jockey providing music, and children’s activities.
Contact Vanessa McCray at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6065.