By Robert Pitts –
For the 28th consecutive year, Atlanta’s famous 800-lb Peach made its way down the tower at Underground Atlanta, signifying the end of 2016 and celebrating the beginning of 2017. Despite the rain and cold of the evening, the crowd’s enthusiasm remained undampened. With the pending sale of Underground Atlanta and its likely transition into a mixed-use development, those who braved the elements to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Underground Atlanta were likely the last to witness the Peach Drop at this historic venue. As one of the tens of thousands of people attending this year’s Peach Drop, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of bittersweet nostalgia as the evening progressed.
Make no mistake: I am thrilled that Underground Atlanta will get a new chance to shine as a true gem of Downtown Atlanta. Over the years, I’ve witnessed Underground’s highs and lows. As a young man living in Atlanta in the 1970s, I (along with countless others) helped make Underground Atlanta the city’s Mecca for nightlife. The next decade saw Underground all but abandoned: the result of growing competition, as well as transportation infrastructure expansion that claimed several blocks of Underground’s clubs, along with most available parking.
Underground Atlanta would get a new chance to thrive again in the late 1980s- just about the time I was granted my first opportunity to serve the people of Atlanta as a member of the City Council. In that capacity, I strove to ensure the success of the “new” Underground Atlanta’s 1989 debut. Among the efforts that I championed at the time was the creation of the Peach Drop New Year’s Eve celebration to serve as a premiere event in the Southeast, as well as a signature annual attraction for Underground Atlanta.
Helping to bring Peach Drop and Underground Atlanta together remains one of my proudest achievements. Over time, as Underground Atlanta again showed signs of faltering, I did what I could – both as a City Council member and City Council president to ensure that resources would be available to keep this centerpiece of Atlanta/Fulton County viable. Even after leaving public life, I have been vocal in my support for both Underground Atlanta and the Peach Drop. Over the past three years of uncertainty regarding the fate of Underground Atlanta, I have strived to remind the City of Atlanta (the current “owner” of Underground Atlanta) that the Peach Drop could – and should – still go on.
I have stated before: Peach Drop has become an Atlanta tradition that fans have come to expect…and deserve. I’m thrilled to hear that Underground Atlanta is likely to be resurrected yet again, thanks to investment by WRS Inc., and I completely understand that their development plans will mean that Underground Atlanta will no longer be a viable location for the Peach Drop.
But I am confident in the resiliency of the Peach Drop as an event – just as I am confident in the resiliency of Underground Atlanta as a destination. Therefore, I have no reservations in proclaiming that the Peach Drop will return next year to help Atlanta celebrate 2018 – and beyond. The only question that remains is: Which Atlanta venue will become the new host of our beloved tradition?
Robb Pitts is a former Fulton County commissioner and former Atlanta City Council president.