A Northeast Ohio tradition is popping back up this weekend. Chagrin Falls will be ringing in the New Year with its iconic Popcorn Ball Drop.
The small town 30 minutes outside of Cleveland is known for its idyllic Main Street situated near a waterfall on the Chagrin River. During the holiday shopping season, the Hallmark-esque atmosphere attracts visitors and locals alike to its row of small businesses.
“I love all of it — the lights, the waterfall, all of the walks, the boutiques,” said Sharon Parr, who was visiting family in Chagrin Falls Thursday.
Resident MaryEllen Schron added, “I like the community and the closeness and living in a town where I can walk my dog every day.
One of the historic town’s oldest buildings, built in 1875, has been home to the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop for nearly 75 years.
“If you know it, you know it. And if you don’t know it, somebody’s going to tell you about it,” laughed Rachael Raymond, general manager of the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop.
The shop has expanded its offerings to include ice cream, locally made sweets and an ever-growing selection of small-batch popcorn.
“We’ve got something like 23 flavors at the moment, of popcorn. We experiment all the time, and then there’s some seasonal goodies,” Raymond said.
One of the most notable seasonal goodies is not edible. Since 2012, a giant ball of popcorn has sat outside the shop door during the month of December.
“The first ball was comprised of plain white popcorn with glue, hairspray and who knows what else could stick it together. And it was this wide and only this tall,” said Raymond, referring to an oblong popcorn ball that made its debut during the first Popcorn Ball Drop.
More than a decade ago, the shop owners were inspired by a quirky New Year’s tradition in another small town where the locals lower a taxidermied possum at the stroke of midnight. In Chagrin Falls, residents thought a more fitting celebration should include a hometown staple.
“The Popcorn Shop being solely iconic to Chagrin Falls, it would be tradition to drop the popcorn ball,” said Schron.
Raymond added, “We could make it the small town get-together for Chagrin Falls.”
The size of the gathering and the girth of the popcorn ball have both grown over the years.
The 2023 behemoth nicknamed “Jupiter” features several hundred pounds of popcorn and other material secured to a two-piece frame.
“It’s about the size of 4-5,000 regular-size popcorn balls,” Raymond said.
Each year, volunteers help hoist the ball onto a flagpole in the town center and crowds watch it drop at midnight on New Year’s Day. Raymond said the tradition has helped attract visitors during a slow period after the busy holiday shopping season. She believes it’s been a boon for the local economy.
“If someone were to come down for the New Year’s Eve ball drop, they’re like, ‘Wow, I’ve never been to that area before.’ They come down and they’re like, ‘There’s so much going on here.’ And they come back,” she said.
This article was originally published by Catherine Ross for Scripps News Cleveland.
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