MOBILE, AL (RNN) - As it prepares to drop a 600-pound marshmallow creme pie at the stroke of midnight this Dec. 31, a port city in Alabama is hoping to continue to give the nation's biggest cities stiff competition for New Year's Eve glory.
"Mobile's New Year's Eve celebration featuring the MoonPie Over Mobile has become a cultural phenomenon in the entire USA," said Fred Richardson, a Mobile city councilman.
Richardson, who is credited as the visionary of the one-of-a-kind holiday event, said he is hopeful for a large turn-out to this year's funk-themed event.
"I look forward to this New Year's Eve being the best that has ever been in our city," he said.
The MoonPie, which is baked by the Chattanooga Bakery in Tennessee, is the iconic symbol of Mardi Gras. Though many associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, the fun-filled carnival was first celebrated in America in Mobile in 1703.
"Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras," said Barbara Drummond, the city's communications director. "Our New Year's celebration takes something iconic with our carnival season and turns it into a new economic engine."
And that's no exaggeration. A torrential downpour wasn't enough to keep 40,000 people from ringing in 2011 with the O'Jays in downtown Mobile.
This year, Drummond predicts between 80,000 and 100,000 people will flock to watch a Mardi Gras parade, iconic music and a state-of-the-art light show in historic downtown Mobile before the evening's main event: a shining, 12-foot MoonPie descending from atop a 34-story skyscraper.
"My personal favorite would be the laser show and the fireworks display," Drummond said. "Just to see them light up a part of the city that was once dead and is now very private, you take immense pride in that."
The first thing spectators from states including Florida and Mississippi will notice about this year's MoonPie Over Mobile is that not one but two renowned acts will grace its main stage.
"We're sort of funkadelic-ing MoonPie Over Mobile," Drummond said.
At 9:30 p.m., funk band Lakeside will perform hits including "Outrageous," "All the Way Live" and "Raid." The R&B hit-makers are followed at 11 p.m. by musicians Three Dog Night, who are ready to "Celebrate" in this fourth decade of their iconic career.
"They're high energy, very inspirational, and they're creating a whole lot of momentum," Drummond said of the bands.
And as Lakeside's No. 1 R&B hit song may suggest, the tunes are assured to take the audience on a "Fantastic Voyage" to decades past. The two groups of yesteryear are sure to appease parents at this event, which has a little something for everyone, according to Drummond.
"It's a family-friendly event designed to help those who come down have a fun time and usher in the carnival season," she said.
This year, the organizers of the event are also touting two improvements: a nearly triple the size Mardi Gras parade sure to wow kids and a new stage location.
"We looked at several locations and wanted to bring the MoonPie drop and stage location closer together to build more enthusiasm," Mobille Mayor Sam Jones said in a news release.
Located in downtown Mobile's Bienville Square, it will also be a good shield in the event of more inclement weather.
Taking example from New York's New Year's Eve celebration, Drummond said the city has a few top-secret surprises up its sleeve.
But more so than all of the gimmicks, it may be something unexpected that will sell MoonPie Over Mobile to you: Southern kindness.
"To top it all off, we truly have a hospitality that will make you want to come back for more," Drummond said.
Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
With an idea as small as a marshmallow creme pie, a city councilman in Alabama has given a critical boost to his city's economy and changed the way local governments do business. More>>