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New Wylie will ring in the new year in Port Clinton

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Lake Erie Shores & Islands shows the lakeside town of Port Clinton, Ohio, celebrating its annual walleye fish drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

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PORT CLINTON — Nothing beats ringing in the new year by watching a 600-pound fish drop to the ground from a three-story-tall crane.

This year marks the 21st annual Walleye Drop in Port Clinton, where thousands will watch a 20-foot, 600-pound fiberglass walleye as it descends to earth while onlookers excitedly count down the old year’s final seconds and welcome the new one.

WATCH: Port Clinton rings in new year with giant fish (Video provided by 13abc)

“It brings the community together,” said Lauren Schubach, chairwoman of the Wylie Walleye Foundation, which organizes the popular event. “It’s something we can all have fun with and is a random, funky way to bring in the new year. It’s something a lot of people use to mark the change in times and kick off the next year.”

The day starts at noon along Madison Street until Wylie Walleye touches the ground at midnight, followed by a fireworks finale.

If you go

What: Walleye Drop

When: Noon-midnight Sunday.

Cost: Free

Where: Madison Street, Port Clinton

If you’re one of the expected 6,000 people in attendance, you’ll find activities such as hula hoop and rock/paper/scissors contests, downtown shopping at local businesses, and live entertainment from Master T.C. and the Visitors.

That’s not to mention the walleye-themed foods available throughout the day, from sandwiches to popcorn.

Ms. Schubach said the annual free event boosts local businesses, drives more people to the town, and continues to be a safe, fun-filled day for families.

“We haven’t had any incidents; our police force is wonderful and always out making sure everyone is safe and friendly,” she said, adding that children can ring in the new year earlier in the day with kids’ events starting at 4 p.m., followed by a Minnow Drop at 6 p.m.

The idea for the annual tradition started in 1996, when local resident Dan Sedlak, with the support of Tom Brown, proposed the idea of the Walleye Drop to the Ottawa County Visitor’s Bureau and the Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce. Now, 21 years later, there’s no other way to celebrate the new year for residents of Port Clinton. 

This year includes a new Wylie, created by Rain Drop Products out of Ashland, Ohio.

Ross Kette, vice president of operations at Rain Drop Products, said the new Wylie includes LED lights that are capable of illuminating various effects as well as a realistically detailed walleye paint job to “make him as real as we could possibly make him.”

“It’s going to be absolutely beautiful,” he said. “I love everything about it.”

The original Wylie Walleye was made out of papier-mache, weighed 120 pounds and was 17 feet long. The fish cracked after the 1997 celebration of the new year. Its replacement, created by Jim Wendt of Jim’s Taxidermy, helped ring in the new year for the next 18 years until this weekend.

Mr. Kette said the new Wylie has an expandable control system and is designed to evolve and accommodate new technologies in the future.

“He’s not going to look like the old one; he’s going to be a whole lot better,” he said.

Of course, the Walleye Drop in Port Clinton isn’t the only “drop” happening on New Year’s Eve.

The Toledo Zoo has its annual Noon Year’s Eve with its rising of a recycling ball on Sunday, and Imagination Station will host its New Year’s Eve Eve at 2:18 p.m. Saturday, where guests can watch 10,000 bouncy balls drop into its lower atrium.

While frigid temperatures are expected Sunday night, Ms. Schubach doesn’t anticipate a low attendance rate in Port Clinton.

She said she’s been to many Walleye Drops in the past and has seen her share of brutal winter weather. Yet each year thousands still come out to see Wylie touch the ground to mark the start of the new year.

“Everyone bundles up, and once you're in a big crowd you’re packed in there with a bunch of people and you don’t even notice it,” she said. “The event will go on regardless.”

Contact Geoff Burns at gburns@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.

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