The Watermelon Drop is under new leadership.

Will McCormick, part owner of Best Way Express, stepped up this year to take the place of Rick Linenburg and John Frenz, the two founders and long-time coordinators for the annual downtown New Year's Eve event.

Mark Hill, a volunteer and committee member, stayed on, too, to offer guidance, and both he and McCormick say this year's Watermelon Drop will be a smaller, more streamlined event.

The celebration will kick off on New Year's Eve about 9 p.m. — and an hour or so later if it's really cold — and will include a heated tent on Patrick Henry Square complete with a DJ and cash bar.

In year's past, the event has included several other entertainment elements — even the watermelon-smashing comedic king Gallagher paid a visit in 2013 as did a crew from CNN.

But in the year's that followed, it took on a more family-friendly approach, complete with local dance troupes and an animated movie.

The last couple of years, however, have seen the event play out on a somewhat smaller scale. And this year, McCormick said, will be no different.

“This being my first year, I wanted to keep things the same,” he said.

“Just like it's been,” Hill said of this year's festivities. “The last couple of years we've just done a tent and some music.

“We just aren't going to have a lot of other bells and whistles with it,”he said.

Music will be provided by local DJ Shawn Brown and the beer and liquor from Cutter's Way, all the basics needed to usher in a new year.

The Illiana Watermelon Queen Brilee Albrecht will also pay a visit.

And at the stroke of midnight, 19 Knox County watermelons will drop from the giant, 500-pound metal watermelon onto the “splatform” below.

Exactly what form the event will take on — or what changes await it — in the years to come, neither McCormick and Hill know just yet.

Change, however, could be good, they agree.

McCormick is excited to try a few new ideas, and Hill, too, believes that's exactly what the event, now in its 11th year, could use.

“It needs an infusion of new blood,” Hill said. “It was run so efficiently for so many years by (Linenburg and Frenz). And it's been so popular, too. Even this year, we made the Top 10 (unusual New Year's Eve celebrations) in Midwest Living magazine.

“But I think it needs some new people, a new age. So we welcome some new ideas.”

Last year, the Watermelon Drop was featured in "Reader's Digest" and "Country Woman" magazine.

The year before, it kicked off Indiana's bicentennial celebration, and it's been named one of the best small festivals in the world by "The Guardian," a British publication.

In 2014, it was featured in "Smithsonian Magazine" in an article about "weird things cities drop on New Year's Eve,” and editors of the travel site, TripAdvisor, listed it among in the 2011 "Top Ten Quirkiest New Year's Eve Celebrations in America."

The idea formed while Linenburg and some friends sat around his kitchen table one New Year's Eve wishing there was a large, local event.

That first year, the Watermelon Drop was put on with a shoe-string budget of just $7,000. In years past, however, Linenburg said the budget swelled to more than $100,000.

It's also featured local and regional bands as well as acclaimed Master Chef Joe Poon, famous for his watermelon-carving techniques, and a night-time air show by Team AeroDynamix.

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