Blame the forecast, or maybe blame the Alabama Crimson Tide, but attendance for this year’s MoonPie Over Mobile event was down slightly compared to last year.
Although New Year’s Eve turned out to be clear and crisp, forecasts from a few days out predicted rain, which Margo Gilbert, general manager for the Battle House Hotel and acting general manager at the Riverview Plaza, said contributed to a drop in reservations for both hotels compared to last year.
“Both hotels were off 10 to 12 percent,” Gilbert said. “A lot of it had to do with weather reports.”
The restaurants in both hotels were “steady,” but were also off about 10 percent from last year, Gilbert said.
Carol Hunter, president of Events Mobile, said the group wouldn’t have an official count by press deadline, but based on garbage collection at the site, she estimated the crowd was about the same size as last year.
“I’ll be very surprised if crowds were larger,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s smaller due to the game. It wasn’t a huge impact. Royal and Saint Francis streets were still packed.”
Hunter said she’d have a more accurate crowd count after viewing photos of the event. During the Mardi Gras season, the Mobile Police Department releases data related to crowd size for parades, but Hunter said the department is unable to take a count for the New Year’s Eve event.
“I think it was one of the best ones we’ve done,” Hunter said.
The College Football Playoff semifinal match between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan State Spartans had an impact on more than possible crowd size, Hunter said. It forced the event to start without an opening act for En Vogue. Screens were also added to the stage so fans could watch the game before the concert started. It also forced organizers to move everything on the schedule closer to midnight, Hunter said, which turned out to be a positive.
“It was one of the best ones yet because time was compressed,” Hunter said of this year’s MoonPie Over Mobile. “There was no dead time. It was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
“It felt like the flow worked better for the people who came out,” she added. “The weather was great. This is the third year I’ve been involved in this and this year had the best weather.”
Both Gilbert and Hunter said the cutting and serving of the “World’s Largest MoonPie” was a popular part of the event. When the giant confection was rolled out of the Riverview Plaza at about 9:45 p.m., it got a great reaction, Hunter said. People in the crowd wanted to take photos with it. The pie served around 500 people, she said, and smaller MoonPies were tossed to others in the crowd who didn’t get a piece of the big version.
Gilbert said there were roughly 300 to 350 people in the hotel’s courtyard to watch the cutting.
Councilman Fred Richardson said he was excited to be out among the crowd for the event.
“It was one of the best ones yet,” Richardson said. “It was a wonderful event.”
Richardson said he was surprised the game didn’t have a bigger impact, but added he didn’t think the game “hurt it at all.” He said he noticed people in the crowd were watching the game and at midnight they were “dancing in the street.” He added he was surprised it didn’t rain.
“It was wall-to-wall people,” he said. “It gains in popularity each year.”
The popularity of the event will only increase next year, when the Chattanooga Bakery, makers of the MoonPie, turns 100 and joins the city and Events Mobile to “help make [the MoonPie drop] as big as ever,” Richardson said.
Despite bringing in fewer reservations than last year, Gilbert praised the event for the numbers of people it did bring downtown.
“It’s better than it would be without the MoonPie,” she said.
Event crime stats
According to reports from the local police, an unidentified victim was wounded by gunfire less than an hour after the New Year’s MoonPie Over Mobile event downtown.
Officers say the individual was shot in the leg around 12:46 a.m. in the 100 block of Dauphin Street — a location near Bienville Square. Those injuries were not considered to be life threatening.
Though the shooting occurred downtown, the incident was reported a few blocks from the scene of Mobile’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
Police are reporting the occurrence as a second-degree assault, but authorities say the victim didn’t know the person or persons who fired the shots. So far, no suspects have been identified.
However, other than that shooting, the Mobile Police Department had a relatively quiet night Dec. 31.
According to authorities, 26 complaints were investigated during the MoonPie drop, but only five arrests were made — all of them for misdemeanors. Those charges included disorderly conduct, public intoxication, criminal mischief and one person picked up for previous warrants.
Police say an additional report of leaving the scene of accident was reported, but it was unrelated to MoonPie Over Mobile.
Jason Johnson contributed to this report.