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Secret is out, Havre de Grace is a top East Coast place to celebrate New Year

The New Year's Eve Duck Drop and Fireworks In Havre de Grace featured an orange duck this year in honor of the Baltimore Orioles, in hope they will win the World Series in 2015. (photo by Scott Serio / December 31, 2014)
The New Year's Eve Duck Drop and Fireworks In Havre de Grace featured an orange duck this year in honor of the Baltimore Orioles, in hope they will win the World Series in 2015. (photo by Scott Serio / December 31, 2014) (photo by Scott Serio / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

It's no secret in Harford County that Havre de Grace has one of the best New Year's Eve celebrations. Now others up and down the East Coast will know, too, thanks to "Coastal Magazine."

The once-a-year celebration of New Year's, "it's kind of special to us," Susquehanna Hose Company Chief Scott Hurst said.

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The Havre de Grace volunteer fire company has been involved in the Duck Drop since its beginning when 1999 turned to 2000. Susquehanna Hose took over the event fully in 2005 and in recent years has turned it into a fundraiser for different nonprofits.

"People come from states away to see it. It's one of the best things to do on the East Coast on New Year's Eve," Hurst said.

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The City of Havre de Grace has been named one of "The Top 50 Small Towns in America," its third national recognition as a top small town or tourism destination since 2014.

Ed Grainger spearheads each year's creation of the duck. Some years, a new wooden cutout is needed; other years it's recycled.

This year's Duck Drop theme is autism awareness, and proceeds from T-shirt sales and donations for drinks will go to Pathfinders for Autism of Maryland.

"A couple firefighters have autistic kids, so we decided to do that for this year," Hurst said.

Grainger and other fire company members started working on the duck just after Thanksgiving, making the "6" to replace the "5" in 2015.

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"We're just about done with the lighting, putting bulbs on it," Grainger said just a few days before Christmas. "We're ready to go."

He and his Duck Drop committee members will have a "work party" Dec. 30 to check the bulbs, make sure everything is working, the frames are ready.

"We'll take a couple hours just to make sure the lights work before New Year's Eve," he said.

The Duck Drop began in 1999, when Havre de Grace wanted to ring in the millennium in a big way. Organizers approached the fire company, which had the only piece of equipment able to drop a duck from 100 feet in the air, and members gladly said yes.

Grainger was the aerial truck operator back then, and "it's just carried on since then," he said.

It's hard to determine just how many people take in the Duck Drop and fireworks every year, Hurst and Grainger said, though they estimated anywhere from 800 to 1,000 see the drop and fireworks.

A few hundred gather beginning at 11 p.m. around Havre de Grace Middle School, where the duck is dropped and fireworks shot off, but several hundred others watch the festivities from various other places in the city, since the fireworks can be seen from just about anywhere.

DJ Jeff Thompson will be playing music, the Ladies Auxiliary of Susquehanna Hose Company will be "selling" hot chocolate and T-shirts will be sold with proceeds going to Pathfinder for Autism Maryland.

"The atmosphere is very electric. Everyone is excited," Grainger said. "I think people feel safe being there. No one gets out of hand and it's really a great time. Every year people say 'we're coming back, coming back,' not just from Havre de Grace, but around the area."

Being part of the Duck Drop is important to Susquehanna Hose Company.

"A big part of the fire company is community service. Fire companies across the nation always try to get involved in things in the community," Hurst said.

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