INsite Magazine

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bottom's Up: The Hippodrome's Great Pumpkin Drop

Smashing pumpkins is a usual Halloween hobby for disaffected teenagers, but Friday, Oct. 30, even peace-loving hippies committed some violence against pumpkins. A group ranging from cowgirls to the goddess Gaia met atop the roof of the Hippodrome Theatre to splatter pumpkins onto the street below. It was all part of the first annual Pumpkin Drop and costume contest, hosted by the Hippodrome and the classic rock station Wind-FM.

On that misty morning from 7 to 9:30am, Wind-FM radio personalities Hunter and Dixon, dressed as Alice in Wonderland and a disco dancer, broadcast live from the steps of the Hippodrome to realize Dixon’s “life-long dream of dropping pumpkins off tall buildings,” says Crash, their program director.

The person to drop his or her gourd closest to the center of a bull’s eye placed on the road below would win tickets to the AC/DC concert in Jacksonville that night. Prospective pumpkin-smashers were chosen earlier by correctly answering trivia on the radio program or on the Hippodrome’s Facebook page. The first two costumed people to approach the Wind-FM booth that morning would also be able to toss a pumpkin off the roof.

Student Sean Bracewell won his chance to pumpkin-toss by answering trivia on Facebook. “How can you not want to drop a pumpkin off a roof?” Sean said. “It’s the Bart Simpson factor; usually when you throw pumpkins off a roof you get in trouble.” Many public school students took advantage of their day off to witness pumpkins raining from the roof of the Hipp. Emily Johns of Westwood Middle School, the last person chosen to participate in the competition, said before the drop, “To be able to go up there, watch it fall, and hopefully get pumpkin guts on people would be very exciting. “

At 7:55am, police started to gather around the Hippodrome, blocking off the intersection of 1st Street and SE 2nd Place. Meanwhile, Hippodrome employees plastered the cobblestone streets with tarps, placing the large, red bull’s eye in the middle.

With a cry of “Geronimo!,” the first test pumpkin was launched off the Hippodrome roof, initiating the pumpkin massacre. Local celebrities like TV20’s morning anchor Amanda Decker tossed a large pumpkin for the cameras below, and contestants vying for the AC/DC tickets took turns aiming small pumpkins at the target below. Amid the splatter of seeds and pumpkin innards, 12-year-old Joseph Ambrose emerged victorious. “I got very, very lucky,” says Ambrose. “I could barely see over the landing.”

The pumpkin drop attracted a crowd from the surrounding establishments, as passerby stopped to watch the ensuing carnage. The grand finale was a trio of three large pumpkins flung off the roof, culminating a loud pumpkin explosion below.

Following the pumpkin drop, the costume contest was judged by the Hippodrome’s Emmy-winning costume designer Marilyn A. Wall. Looking for a combination of originality and ingenuity, she ended up crowning three first place winners. Zombie Captain America, Bernie Madoff, and Kate Gosselin, also known as by their everyday alter-egos Chris Amatruda, Billy Camplin, and Janice Caplin, each won season Flex Passes for Hippodrome shows. The other contestants did not leave empty handed; they each were given a pass for a pair of tickets to any of the upcoming Hippodrome show.

—Allison Griner; Photos by Sarah Hsu

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