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Miami's neon 'Big Orange' is squeezed out of New Year's Eve again

Photo by C.M. Guerrero via the Miami Herald
The Big Orange sign by local artist Mr. Neon, pictured here in 2017, will be absent from Miami's New Year's Eve celebration for the third year in a row.

Though most events are back to normal three years into the pandemic, COVID-19 and an active flu season have once again put a hamper on a tried and true Miami in-person tradition.

For the third year in a row, Mr. Neon will not install the beloved “Big Orange” on the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Miami for New Years Eve.

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“With the outbreak of the flu and everything, we decided it wouldn’t be good for us to put up the orange for 100,000 plus people,” Steve Carpenter, the eponymous “Mr. Neon,” told WLRN.

The shades-wearing citrus fruit has been a staple of Miami’s New Year’s celebration for over 30 years — an answer to New York City’s countdown ball drop. Instead of falling, the orange rises.

But the sign has been absent from end-of-year festivities since New Year’s 2021, when the city canceled its in-person activities as a safety precaution.

In 2022, Carpenter’s entire set up crew came down with COVID-19 at the same time, so he was unable to install the titillating tangerine. This year he says he wants to avoid that risk altogether, so he backed out in advance.

“I understand the people are more important than having the orange on the building,” he said.

Cornelia “Corky” Dozier, coordinator of the New Year’s Eve festivities, said this year’s celebration will include a digitized version of the orange made with lasers, which is what the city used last year when Carpenter had to bow out.

The celebration will still be at the InterContinental Hotel near Bayfront Park on New Year’s Eve, she said, but this year’s show will celebrate culture, heritage, and creativity.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. A born-and-raised Miami journalist, his stories focus on the intersection of local government, corruption, and the regular people of South Florida.