Waiting for another shoe to drop: Akron welcomes the New Year

By on January 4, 2017
Akron’s New Year’s Eve shoe drop featured a newly refurbished sneaker and a recently installed perma - nent pole to raise and lower the town’s iconic Chuck Taylor to officially ring in the New Year.

Akron’s New Year’s Eve shoe drop featured a newly refurbished sneaker and a recently installed permanent pole to raise and lower the town’s iconic Chuck Taylor to officially ring in the New Year.

Akron rang in the New Year Saturday night with the town’s locally-famous midnight shoe drop. There were free hot dogs, free cookies and free hot chocolate. There was a fierce bonfire. There was romance. A DJ. Dancing on the ball field.

There were 350 people at least, according to Mayor John McBeth, but probably more than that, according to Barb McMinn, who has been chair of the shoe drop committee for the past five years. This is McMinn’s final year as the annual event’s spark plug, but, she said, after the festivities had drawn to a close, that there is an excellent committee of volunteers in place. She expects a smooth transition as the new chair, Jim Kearsley takes on the volunteer job.

Kearsley and his wife, Cathie, are ministers of the Freedom Path Church, which meets at 11 a.m. Sundays at the MCC building in Akron.

Asked if she could think of a bigger New Year’s Eve celebration anywhere in Lancaster County, outside the one in Lancaster itself, McMinn couldn’t come up with one. The things that have made Akron’s event successful, she believes, are the committee, the sponsors and the general community support. It is absolutely a sober, but high-spirited, family-friendly event.

There was a gentleman wandering around Saturday night, holding a glass that looked suspiciously family unfriendly. Asked by one of Akron’s finest what was in the glass, he said, “Coke.”

“And what’s in the Coke?”

That was his cue to leave, and he did so without a fuss.

McMinn said the shoe drop operates entirely on volunteer effort and donated funds, food and other inputs. No tax money is involved, although the borough’s public works department does help some with setting up and cleaning up after the event.

Over the years, the shoe drop organization has become more self-sufficient, McMinn said. They used to borrow a crane to lower the shoe, but this year a 40-foot steel pole was used. The pole was permanently installed on Dec. 16. The pole and installation were donated by Stoner Industrial Service of Denver.

Removable walls to keep weather out of the park pavilion were built by committee member Darryl Witmer, who stores them at his home. Lights were installed on the pavilion roof and the roof of the playground bathrooms by Joe Maywell, who grew up in Akron, but now lives in Ephrata. Committee member Tracy Lagaza takes care of the shoe donations and sees that they get to the monthly Peter’s Porch distributions at Zion Lutheran Church in Akron.

Another committee member, Joe Dunn, brought his audio equipment and music collection along to the park on Saturday night. Local Realtor Phil Rutt helps get the word out about the event. Harold Stauffer brings a tractor from Stauffer Diesel in Ephrata to pull the hayride wagon and Tom Murray Sr., pitches in where he’s needed. Saturday night he kept the bonfire going.

The prime sponsors for the event this year, as in past years, were Good’s Disposal and the Ephrata National Bank. Also pitching in to keep the event free to anybody who cared to attend were Weiser’s Market, Sharp Shopper, Ten Thousand Villages, the Ephrata Subway, and Royer Pharmacy.

Although she is stepping down from her shoe drop role, McMinn said she believes the event is well organized and well funded, and she expects to be a happy spectator as the town drops yet another shoe to ring in 2018.

Dick Wanner is a staff writer and photographer for the Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback and story ideas at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

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