est. 2011

Photo: L to R: Stefan Markov, Robert Markov, Tracey Horn, Marco Espitia, Patti Ezell and Matt Brassard.

The boot first dropped in downtown 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 in 2010 to help set up a new tourism department for the City of Prescott. One assignment was coming up with new events to expand the holiday season.

“I had the concept of a New Year’s Eve drop in mind for a few years,” said Horn. “I’m a New Year’s baby and when we’d go downtown to celebrate each year, there just wasn’t much going on.”

Horn had done marketing for The Palace Restaurant & Saloon for sixteen years and knew the building and its owners well. “I believed the flagpole on the Palace Building could be the perfect instrument for lowering a fun object,” said Horn.

Horn shared her concept for a New Year’s Eve drop in a meeting with the city, but they were not convinced, and the idea was shelved. It wasn’t until a colleague, Patti Ezell, Sales Manager of Great Circle Media, introduced her to a new Market 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, the group 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.”

In the first year, the group had much to plan in terms of how the event would work.

“I think we were in a bit 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 suggested I reach out to the Eagles Club for help and boy am I glad I did!” said Horn. “They helped that first year with all the infrastructure for the event and figured out how we could actually drop the boot from the Palace Building’s flagpole.”

When Horn was wondering who could build the boot, Meinhardt had another impressive idea.

“Erik had worked for Stefan Markov at Morgan Sign years ago and suggested hiring Stefan to construct the boot –and he’s a real artist, so he really took the concept and ran with it!” said Horn.

It took Morgan Sign four months to build the boot, and the craftsmen donated much of their time. The fiberglass boot has undergone updates over the past several years and still stood the test of time.

“The boot weighs about 100 lbs. and is covered with more than five hundred LED lights, many of which were added over the years,” said Stefan Markov, Owner of Morgan Sign. Markov said the boot is built to withstand the weather and now can be lit remotely.  “When we added the name Prescott a couple of years ago, I think that really personalized the boot,” said Markov.

Horn remembers the biggest push that first year was selling the Boot Drop concept in order to raise funds to promote the event and build the boot. Horn reached out to all her clients and succeeded in raising enough money to pay for construction of the boot and much of the needed infrastructure, including street closures and additional police.

“I was a bit nervous – not knowing if the event would be successful at all – but I had faith and clients who really supported our efforts,” said Horn. “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 happened 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 helped emcee the first Boot Drop and has continued to participate for the last several years.

It’s estimated 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 Boot Drop every year.”

In the second and third years of the Boot Drop, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce helped orchestrate the event. In 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 was grateful Matt and Marco took over the event because I honestly didn’t have the time to manage it all,” said Horn. “I’ve offered my creative and marketing services for free all these years, just to help out. It’s all about supporting the community and having a fun way to kick off the New Year.”

The Boot is lifted to the Palace Building’s roof by a crane 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. Brassard and his many volunteers handle all details for the event, including infrastructure, vendors and entertainment. They also are on the roof for every countdown.

Brassard noted that no two Boot Drops are exactly the same. “Each year we add something new and different,” said Brassard. “The event has grown with more fun things to do in the street and live music people can dance to right on Whiskey Row.” Brassard continued: “We’re grateful to Prescott ProSound for handling sound production for the music, video and live streaming every year.” Brassard added: “They do such a professional job, and it really helps create a party atmosphere.”

A few years ago, Boot Drop organizers joined the Prescott Chamber Foundation and are now part of the signature events in the Arizona Christmas City Organization. The five-holiday events are Prescott’s Holiday Light Parade & Bonfire; Christmas Parade & Courthouse Lighting; Acker Musical Showcase; Christkindl Market; and Whiskey Row New Year’s Eve Boot Drop.

“We are proud to be the closing act for all the festive activities that take place in Prescott each year,” said Brassard. It is clear Brassard believes the future of the Boot Drop is in good hands. “Being part of the Arizona Christmas City Organization, we know there will always be someone to take on this event and keep it going in the future,” said Brassard. “These collective groups share one mission: making sure Arizona’s Christmas City shines for the holidays.”