Photo by Blushing Cactus Photography
The Biggest Party in Northern Arizona
12th Annual Event Rings in 2023 in Prescott, Arizona
6-foot Illuminated Cowboy Boot to be Dropped from Palace Building’s Flagpole
by Ruth Harris, Ruth Writes
Prescott, AZ. – If you are fortunate enough to be on Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott, Arizona at the stroke of 10:00 pm or midnight on December 31, you will be thrilled by the one-of-a-kind spectacle of the Whiskey Row New Year’s Eve Boot Drop. Thousands will welcome 2023 on Saturday, December 31, 2022, from 7:30 pm to 12:30 am. This will be the 12th Annual event and is free to all ages. The festive 6-foot illuminated cowboy boot will be lowered from a 40-foot flagpole from a top the historic Palace building for two drops; the first at 10 pm and the second at midnight. As thousands of people cheer both drops, fireworks will light up the night sky. The earlier drop occurs simultaneously with the traditional “Ball Drop” in New York City. It is especially popular with young families and those who wish to retire early. While the boot isn’t as large as the ball in Times Square, the Whiskey Row Boot Drop shows off Prescott’s legendary holiday spirit and is a perfect closing celebration for Arizona’s Christmas City.
Boot Drops: Past, Present & Future
The boot first dropped in Prescott on New Year’s Eve 2011, with the Palace Building as a beautiful backdrop. “That first year, we really didn’t know what to expect,” said Boot Drop creator Tracey Horn of Helken & Horn Ad Agency. Horn’s agency was hired to help set up the new tourism department at the City of Prescott in 2010. One assignment was to look for ways to add more events to the holiday season and beyond.
“I had the concept of a New Year’s Eve drop in mind for a few years,” said Horn, who had done marketing for The Palace Restaurant & Saloon for 16 years and knew the building and owners well. “I believed the flagpole on the Palace Building could be a perfect instrument for lowering a fun object,” said Horn. “I’m a New Year’s baby, and when I’d go downtown every year to celebrate with friends, there just wasn’t much going on.”
Horn shared her concept for a New Year’s Eve drop in a meeting with the city, but they turned it down and the idea was shelved. It wasn’t until a radio colleague, Patti Ezell of Great Circle Media, introduced her to a new sales manager, Patrick Gallagher, that Horn’s concept got a kick start. “Patrick asked if there were any events I wanted them to get involved with,” said Horn. “I told them ‘I do have one idea if you’d like to partner!’”
In the spring of 2011, Horn, Ezell, Gallagher and an associate, Donna Werking, all met at Horn’s agency for a brainstorming session. “I had originally thought of a horseshoe drop – for good luck – but someone said that would look like a huge, lit-up ‘U’ and they were right!” laughed Horn. “It was Patti who said, ‘How about a boot to represent our western heritage?’ and the Boot Drop was born.”
The first year, the group had much to plan and figure out in terms of how the event would work. “I think we were in a little over our heads,” said Horn. Horn’s boyfriend, Erik Meinhardt, was a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Club, which managed many local events at the time. “Erik said, ‘why not reach out to them for help?’ and boy am I glad I did,” said Horn. “They helped that first year with all the infrastructure and figuring out how we could actually drop the boot from the Palace Building’s flagpole.” Horn was wondering who could build the boot. “Erik had worked for Stefan Markov at Morgan Sign years ago, and suggested hiring Stefan to construct the boot – such a great idea!” said Horn.
Horn remembers the biggest push that first year was selling the concept in order to raise funds to promote the event and build the boot. “I reached out to all my clients and succeeded in raising enough to have the boot built and pay for much of the needed infrastructure, including street closures and additional police,” said Horn. “I was a bit nervous not knowing if this event would be successful at all, but I had faith and clients who really supported our efforts.” Horn added, “It cost $5,000 just to build the boot and two of our clients paid for that – Don Biele, the previous owner of Prescott Honda, and Rowle Simmons, owner of the Alarm Connection.”
Marketing for the event that first year was supported by local media including the Daily Courier, Cable One (now Sparklight Advertising), and Magic 99.1 FM. “We didn’t have a website or Facebook page then because we were waiting to see what would happen that first year,” said Horn. After eight months of planning, the first Boot Drop was a success. “We were thinking maybe 100 people would show up,” said Horn. “When about 4,000 people turned out, we knew we were onto something.” Leza Lachapelle Dandos from Leza Live on Magic 99.1 FM helped emcee the first Boot Drop and has done so for the past 11 years. DJ Eddie also has been there every year and helped get the crowd dancing in the street that first year.
Placer Labs Inc., which tracks how many people attend an event, estimates that about 20,000 people attended last year’s Boot Drop. “It’s pretty amazing how popular the New Year’s Eve Boot Drop has become over the years,” said Horn. “Other people have tried to recreate the history of its inception, but I am here to preserve it. I’m proud to still be involved and help with the drop every year.”
The second and third years of the Boot Drop, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce helped orchestrate the event. The fourth year, Matt Brassard and Marco Espitia of M&M Entertainment & Productions took on the event and have been handling it ever since.
“I honestly did not have time to manage it all and was grateful they decided to take over the event,” said Horn. “I’ve offered my creative and marketing services for free for the past eight years, just to help out. It’s really all about supporting the community and having a fun way to kick off the New Year.”
The boot took Morgan Sign four months to build, who also donated much of their time to create it. Made of fiberglass, it has undergone updates over the past 11 years and still stood the test of time. “It weighs about 100 lbs. and is covered with more than 500 LED lights, many of which were added over the years,” said Markov. “It is built to withstand the weather and now can be lighted remotely. When we added the name Prescott to it two years ago, I think that really added a personal touch to the overall look.”
The boot is lifted to the Palace Building’s roof by crane in the early morning around the last week in December. “It’s really the only way to get it up there,” said Matt Brassard, co-owner of M&M Entertainment & Productions. “We have a new pulley system that’s quite sophisticated, but maybe someday it will be even more advanced.”
Brassard and his many volunteers handle all the numerous event details from infrastructure to entertainment to vendors, as well as being on the roof for the actual countdown. “We’re excited to have a new stage to try out this year and grateful to Prescott ProSound for handling the sound production for the music, video and live streaming every year,” said Brassard. “They do such a professional job, and it really helps create a party atmosphere.”
Brassard noted that no two boot drops are exactly the same. “Every year we add something new, and this year will be no different,” said Brassard. “We’ll have a live band, The Pickup Lines, playing throughout the night. They’ve been performing in Phoenix and nationwide for years and play every genre of music – rock, country and everything in between!” Brassard added, “The Boot Drop is a favorite holiday event in Arizona’s Christmas City and we’re proud to be the closing act for all the festive activities that take place in Prescott each year.”
This New Year’s Eve, Prescott’s party in the street will be hosted by local performer and singer Candace Devine and Marco Espitia, co-owner of M&M Entertainment & Productions. There will be food from street vendors, carnival games, rides, and prizes will be given away throughout the night. Planners encourage people to dress warmly for this outdoor event.
“The boot’s future is in good hands,” said Brassard. “Two years ago, we joined with the Prescott Chamber Foundation and are now part of the signature events in the Arizona Christmas City Organization, which include: Prescott’s Holiday Light Parade & Bonfire, Christmas Parade & Courthouse Lighting, Acker Musical Showcase, and the all-new Christkindl Market.” Brassard added, “Being part of this organization, we know there will always be someone to take on the Boot Drop and keep it going in the future. The collective groups all have one thing in common – to help make Arizona’s Christmas City shine during the holidays.”
The event is presented by Desert Financial Credit Union, Experience Prescott Office of Tourism, and Prescott Outpatient Surgical Center.
Other sponsors include: Barrett Propane, Blind Brothers Arizona, SpringHill Suites, Galpin Ford, Prescott Woman Magazine, Magic 99.1 KTMG FM, 92.9 KAFF Country FM, HITS 106.1FM, 93.9 The Mountain KMGN FM, Faith Home Family 103.9 FM & Fun Oldies 1450 AM, Findlay Prescott, Hair Station 105, Torme, Freeport-McMoran, Helken & Horn Advertising Agency, Prescott Landscape Professionals, EMI Print Works, Bistro St. Michael, CopperState News, Matt’s Saloon, Residence Inn, KPPV 106.7 FM, KQNA 1130 AM, KDDL, JACK FM 94.7 FM, JUAN 107.1 FM, FooteWork Auto License & Title Service, Hotel St. Michael, Sparklight, Bill’s Grill, Red, White & Brew, Prescott Pro Sound, The Daily Courier, El Gato Azul, Prescott Living Magazine, Prescott NOW!, Talking Glass Media, America’s Coupon Mailer, Your Home 1st Magazine, Quad Cities Business News, Flagstaff Business News and SignalsAZ.com.
For more information, contact Matt Brassard at 1-800-975-0013 or go to bootdrop.com. You can like the Boot Drop’s NEW official Facebook page at Whiskey Boot Drop Official https://www.facebook.com/BootDropWhiskeyRow or the Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/whiskeyrowbootdrop_official/