A look behind Manhattan’s New Year’s Eve apple drop


Thirteen years before Varney’s Book Store closed, it started a tradition that would last well beyond closing it’s doors. 

Steve Levin’s family owned Varney’s. He was approached to use their marquee to drop a ball for a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2003. 

“We had a flat bed truck that we put a band on it, just a local band, we got a local dignitary that year,” said Levin.

To make it really feel like people were celebrating in the Little Apple like the Big Apple, he asked local artist Phyllis Pease to design the iconic piece that drops during the countdown.

“We discussed whether it should be a ball like Times Square, or in my thought was no, we have to go with a little apple,” said Pease. 

Pease’s artwork can be found all around Manhattan, including inside Bluestem Grill. She had just two weeks to pull together the apple. 

“The shape wasn’t quite right,” said Pease. “It kind of became kind of a joke which is fine, it wasn’t necessarily intended to be the permanent apple and they didn’t know how successful it would be.” 

It ended up being a hit.

The apple didn’t fall at the right time going into 2017. That was the year Levin went to visit his in-laws.

“I told my wife I would no longer be the Dick Clarke of Manhattan, Kansas, they heard they didn’t have a person up there and it just had a glitch,” said Levin. 

JS Sign & Awning stepped in after the flub with a brand new apple.

John Stroh from JS Sign said he wanted to make the apple more realistic this time. 

“If it’s anywhere close to symmetrical it can look be confused as a cherry or a strawberry,” said Stroh. 

He even recreated the pole the apple slides down during the countdown to make sure it falls correctly every year. 

The apple started out as a five foot by five foot block of Styrofoam that weighed 65 pounds. It was hand-carved and sanded using rough files and sanders.

The final sanded shape was covered in six layers of fiberglass material and resin, followed by a final sanding.

It was primed and painted using automotive paint and clear coat. The highlights and shading were airbrushed on before the final three layers of glass clear coat.

“We enjoyed doing it for them and we enjoy this community,” said Stroh. 

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