At the stroke of midnight Thursday, a 500-pound mushroom will fall from the Pennsylvania sky.

So will a jumbo strawberry, an 85-pound Peeps chick, and a giant, edible hunk of bologna.

Of course, as 2015 turns into 2016, that iconic ball in Times Square will drop as usual. And other spots will celebrate their own quirky drops - a peach for Georgia, cheese for Wisconsin.

But by at least one count - the one touted by Pennsylvania officials - more objects are lowered or raised in the Keystone State to count down the arrival of the new year than in any other. Ceremonial drops are scheduled Thursday night in about 30 to 40 towns across the state, they say.

"It's something that . . . is really tied to our community pride," said Carrie Fischer Lepore, state tourism director.

Many communities choose a signature food (not always edible), In Pottsville, it's a giant Yuengling beer bottle. In Dillsburg, York County, a pickle falls into a barrel. In McVeytown, Mifflin County, an eight- by 10-foot ice cream cake descends. In Hershey - what else? - it's a Hershey's kiss.

Others draw from local symbols. Mechanicsburg uses a wrench. Shippensburg has an anchor. McClure does a kettle.

When a few communities began the drops, it started a domino effect, Fischer Lepore said. The oldest ritual known to the state is in York, where a white rose has floated to Earth each new year since 1986, she said.

Pittsburgh draws close to 100,000 with its recycled-materials ball, she said, while smaller communities attract a few thousand to their events. In Philadelphia, the Franklin Square Holiday Festival will host an early evening "square drop" for children.

The Peeps drop in Bethlehem, where the marshmallow chicks are made, draws 10,000 people annually and last year received visitors from 40 states, said Mark Demko, spokesman for ArtsQuest, a nonprofit group that works with the candy maker Just Born for the drop. "What's really neat is that every community is coming up with these unique ways to bring the residents together to celebrate the holiday," he said.

In Kennett Square - the Chester County borough that calls itself the mushroom capital of the world - it's natural for the honor to go to the fungus.

"It's just a part of who we are," said Kathi Lafferty, coordinator for the Mushroom Festival, which draws more than 100,000 visitors to the borough each fall. She said she organized the first drop in 2013 at the request of a local state representative, John Lawrence.

It quickly became a tradition in southern Chester County, which produces more than 65 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the United States.

This year, the mushroom will be raised and lighted at 8 p.m. It will hang for the last four hours of 2015, until a crane lowers it at midnight. Organizers hope for a crowd of 5,000.

"It's just exciting," Lafferty said. "It looks like a big huge chandelier in the sky."

Then it drops, and 2016 begins.

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