The Tangerine Drop on New Year's Eve was a well known Hernando County event. A fiberglass tangerine was dropped at the Jerome Brown Community Center. The last time the tangerine was dropped was the 2008-2009 New Year.
Wayne Vutech, the Tangerine Drop committee chairman in an article at the time said the event ended because of diminishing funds and a lack of volunteers. He recently said that he would be amenable to restarting the event if volunteers and sponsors could be found.
The Tangerine Drop was a local twist on the famous apple that is dropped in New York City. It had become well known and was included in many lists of interesting things that are dropped in the last seconds of New Year's Eve.
The orange/tangerine industry played a major role in the history of Hernando County. The first bank in Hernando County was the Brooksville State Bank and was established in 1890. The bank was highly reliant on the Citrus. Citrus was the area’s major cash crop and at the time had an estimated 300,000 trees planted in the area. The winter of 1894 to 1895 was very cold and much of the citrus was lost. These losses contributed to the the bank closing in 1897.
A few years after the freeze several small groves were started. In 1905, J. J. Bell established a small orange packing plant. In 1908, Bell and other prominent orange growers decided to establish the Brookville Citrus Growers Association. This association built a packing facility on South Main. The marketing and growing of tangerines in the area was pushed by the association. This association lasted until a big freeze hit in the winter of 1984 to 1985.
Oranges were part of the inspiration for the editor of a daily Czechoslovakian newspaper Joseph Joscak, to start a column that advocated moving to warm Florida which led to the creation of Masaryktown. Many of his readers were working in mines and factories in the north and read his column which extolled the virtues of moving to the warm climate and the farming.
There was a time when almost all the prominent citizens of the county had groves, whether they were doctors, lawyers, businessmen, ranchers, or farmers. Brooksville billed itself as the as the ‘Home of the Tangerine.’ Florida Cracker Kitchen has one of the old signs proclaiming this.
Mike Walker the Parks/Facilities and Recreation Director at the City of Brooksville checked on the status of the Tangerine that is dropped. It needs to be cleaned and repainted, but should be good to go.
This year there were few New Year's Eve events in the county. The tangerine drop was known as a family friendly event. There were three hours of performances by bands and activities for kids. One activity that was remembered were glasses that distorted contestants vision while they attempted to complete tasks. This was an attempt to help kids become aware of effects of drinking and how it would affect their driving.
If you are interested in becoming involved in the Tangerine Drop New Year's event please contact [email protected] and I will get your information to the right people.