Why Does Downtown Sarasota Drop a Pineapple?

Find out how a large, lighted tropical fruit became the iconic symbol of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in Southwest Florida

Since 2000, downtown Sarasota has welcomed in the New Year with a free special event that draws 20,000 to 25,000 people. It is described by locals as the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in Southwest Florida, known for dropping a bright, decorative pineapple at midnight—much like how New York City drops an apple.

There’s just one mystery—why is a pineapple used? After all, Sarasota doesn’t have any particular connection with the fruit. Although pineapples were once grown in Florida, production wasn't concentrated in Sarasota. So, how did the tradition of dropping a pineapple (which replaced the original fruit – an orange – after the celebration's first decade or so) on New Year’s Eve start?

The Myth About the Pineapple Drop

There’s a story that Ron Soto of Soto Opticians in downtown Sarasota tells when he’s asked why a pineapple is used.

“The pineapple is the sign of hospitality,” says Soto, neck-deep into helping to coordinate the Pineapple Drop for an eighth time in 2019.

So the fruit is actually the symbol of the hospitality that people in Sarasota share with other locals and frequent visitors. Sounds great, right? However, it’s not exactly the full story.

The Real Story About the Pineapple Drop

About 10 years ago, a development was planned for downtown called Pineapple Square. Part of the development was retail stores along Lemon Avenue and Main Street. This includes the current stores there such as Blue Mercury, Eileen Fischer, and Sur La Table.

“As part of the marketing for the development, attractive pineapple-shaped light fixtures were installed along the exterior of the stores,” says Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager for the City of Sarasota.

Also part of the plan was the use of a large, lighted pineapple right beside the Pineapple Square development to welcome the new year. and even though some parts of the plan never fully blossomed, the use of the lighted pineapple stuck around, becoming the new beacon for our massive New Year’s Eve block party.

Ringing in the New Year, Sarasota Style

So, now that the rumors and the reality have been cleared up, let’s get back to the big shebang.

Downtown Sarasota’s NYE celebration is more than just its namesake Pineapple Drop. Now it includes amusement rides, multiple live music stages, beer, and food vendors within walking distance of Main Street. The lighted pineapple hangs from a crane above the festivities all night until it is lowered during the ten-second countdown to midnight. Then, a spectacular fireworks display explodes along Sarasota Bay for thousands to marvel and applaud.

The party represents the fruits of the Sarasota Downtown Enrichment Association labor, a collection of some of the businesses located in the downtown area.

The amusement rides begin at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Eve at Five Points Park, and the live music starts later in the day along Main Street and Lemon Avenue.

2019 is a particularly special year, marking the 20th anniversary of the Pineapple Drop.

Soto will tell you Pineapple Drop has become the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration south of Manhattan (exceeded by only our neighbors to the south in Miami). Although it may be hard to prove such an accolade, Sarasota can at least say it attracts a huge, fun-loving crowd each year ready to celebrate what the next year has to offer.