Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Pineapple Drop Returns Downtown

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Pineapple Drop Returns Downtown

Article excerpt

SARASOTA: New Year's Eve events include live music and a carnival


A year after squabbles among organizers of the downtown New Year's bash doomed the event, the glowing pineapple is returning to make its traditional New Year's Eve drop and welcome 2013 for thousands of expected visitors.

This time, expect a little more noise.

Yes, even in quiet Sarasota.

With the help of local restaurants and business leaders who winced at the loss of one of downtown's biggest draws last year, Monday night's event will include four stages for live music that also will include DJs who are expected to reel in young people seldom drawn to downtown en masse.

"It's going to bring a different crowd and a lot of people that wouldn't normally come to this," says Rich Swier Jr., founder of The HuB business incubator, which joined the effort to resurrect the party this year.

"We're bringing a diverse set of music," he added. "I feel like it's going to be more of a festival atmosphere. In the past it felt like just some bands outside and a restaurant."

The HuB -- the same group responsible for the "Saratopia" video shorts that poke at the city's reputation as a dull retirement haven -- joined the effort this year when the event's longtime organizer reached out for help.

The two saw it as a rare opportunity for this city's young professionals and groups of older residents to work together to promote downtown, which has struggled to draw crowds and business in the post-recession lull.

Ernie Ritz, who has organized the event since 2000, said he tapped Swier to help with online marketing, social media promotions and "a whole bunch of things that I don't know a clue about."

"He was having challenges getting the word out," Swier quipped. "He's old school. It's an interesting generational gap."

The end result is a more ambitious event that caters to family crowds with carnival rides and popcorn in the afternoon, and musical acts for teenagers and adults in the evening, Ritz said.

"It's the first time ever we're going to have a DJ and light show," Ritz said. …

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