MoonPie Over Mobile has the potential to become a nationally significant New Year’s Eve event after a successful 2019 edition, a local tourism leader told Lagniappe.
David Clark, president and CEO of Visit Mobile, said the event drew enough visitors to Downtown Mobile on Dec. 31 that as many as three or four of the hotels in the corridor were completely sold out.
“Of the ones that didn’t sell out, the lowest occupancy was about 80 percent,” he said. “It’s a really, really big deal.”
Prior to the event’s creation, Clark said, hotels downtown maxed out at around 20 percent occupancy on New Year’s Eve.
“We can grow this, I think, into a national event,” he said. “Next year is a leap year, so New Year’s Eve is on a Thursday. My goal is to collaborate with local stakeholders to sell a lot more rooms.”
The next two MoonPie Drop events will take place on Thursday and Friday, which means visitors have an opportunity to turn the trip into a weekend excursion, Clark said. With this in mind, he said it’s important to push more resources into the event, especially over the next two years, to improve the entertainment and make Mobile even more of a New Year’s Eve destination.
“Book it sooner, like in April, with more resources,” he said. “Really build the concert and build the events around the MoonPie.”
Carol Hunter, president of Events Mobile, said organizers have yet to receive official numbers from local hoteliers, but she feels this year’s event eclipsed last year’s in terms of attendance. The most recent event also benefited from some changes to the schedule. For one, Hunter said, organizers hosted a “Roaring ‘20s” costume contest to help ring in 2020.
Visitors from all over the country participated in the event, she said. There was also at least one international visitor who competed.
For the first time in the history of the event, Hunter said, Chattanooga Bakery provided revelers with a giant, vanilla MoonPie to cut up and share. In previous years, the “world’s largest MoonPie” had been chocolate.
The night finished with a concert from rock band Collective Soul, a laser light show and fireworks at midnight.
Councilman Fred Richardson, who has been the biggest advocate for the event since its inception, called Mobile’s party the biggest draw for New Year’s Eve in the Central Time Zone. While that is debatable, this year’s turnout certainly has Richardson and other city officials excited about the future.
“People from all over the country come for the MoonPie Drop,” he said. “The entertainment is for the locals.”
Richardson agreed that this year’s event was bigger than last year’s, largely because the weather was better. There was “no rain, no wind and no threat of inclement weather,” he said.
“At 9:30 [p.m.] we got to the main stage and for as far as my eyes could see, in any direction, it was packed out,” he said. “From Government Street all the way to the Battle House on Royal Street, it was wall-to-wall people. It was tremendous.”
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