Sometime around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, Dylan Cline will pick up his guitar and join Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles to play for what should be a few thousand early New Year's Eve revelers in front of the Idaho State Capitol. It may be the easiest thing Cline will do that night: As founder and CEO of the Idaho New Year's Commission, Cline will again be throwing the Gem State's biggest New Year's Eve party. This year, the Idaho Statehouse will serve as backdrop as the shindig moves to Capitol Park, a few blocks north of its previous location at Eighth and Main streets. Leading up to the big countdown, the 38-year-old Cline sat down with Boise Weekly to talk about the change in venue, playing music and dropping a humongous potato at the stroke of midnight.
I'm presuming when you're not dropping potatoes, you're primarily identified as a musician.
I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 15. I guess I had some natural talent.
How many bands have you been a member of?
Do you have fond childhood memories of New Year's Eve?
Absolutely. My mom was a five-star chef and catered tons of Boise holiday parties. She loved the holiday, and I think of her every New Year's Eve. She passed away before our first potato drop in 2013.
I'm presuming that was a difficult year for you.
I lost a slew of relatives that year, but the most profound thing happened the night of our first potato drop. I was on stage, in between musical acts, and I asked the crowd to dedicate the evening to my mother. More than 20,000 people blew a kiss to her.
Leading up to that first night, you must have known there were quite a few skeptics in Boise saying it would be a failure.
Yet, tens of thousands of people came to the party. Wow. You know, weeks before, people were asking, "Oh, you're really going to go through with that?" But Craig Croner, with the city of Boise, was always in our corner. He was always optimistic and wanted us to succeed. Yes, there was some opposition and plenty of suggestions for us to drop something else—a gem, or a Boise State football—anything but a potato.
Let's talk about the decision to stick with a potato.
The opposition thinks that a potato is a negative connotation—the world might look at us as a bunch of farmers.
But in your defense, there are some pretty crazy things dropped on New Year's Eve in other cities: a taco, pickle, pinecone and giant chili.
Exactly. You can't go to Paris or London and say "Idaho" without someone saying "potato."
I'm presuming your first year was rather nerve-wracking.
We spent a lot of money on having an exclusive media partner. That was a big expense.
Wait a minute. You paid them? That's insane. TV cameras are going to be there no matter what, and they'll broadcast the countdown as if it's their own show.
In retrospect, I agree. There was no need to pay for that, but it was a vehicle to get our event in front of a lot of people. Eventually, the event went live on MSNBC and was seen across the planet.
Talk to me about the decision to shift everything this year to in front of the Idaho Capitol.
At one point, we were seriously looking at dropping the potato from the very top of the Eighth and Main building, but that's not in the cards anymore. It was pretty difficult to work around all of the downtown construction, and we looked at the Capitol knowing it would be a great template for the future.
To be clear, are you in front of the Statehouse this year because of construction or because that's where you want to be going forward?
That's where we want to be every year. Once we saw the Capitol was great, we had the benefit of using Capitol Park, and now we're able to throw in a nice fireworks show.
Who did you have to work with to make that happen?
First, it was the Capitol Mall security team. We've been working them for 12 months now. Plus, Capitol Park is a city park. So, we've had to work with the city, state and even the feds, and the Ada County Highway District. But we'll be able to close off Capitol at Bannock a full day before the event to start setting up the vendors and food trucks. So that when we turn on all the lights and start the music at 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve, we'll be more than ready.
How about the musical acts on your main stage? I'm guessing you do the booking.
I do. We've got a great group, Blue Lotus out of Eugene, Ore., who will have a couple of prime slots. You'll love them.
This is your third year, and the potato drop is clearly a New Year's Eve fixture. Have you found a rhythm in organizing all of this?
We really worked hard through the year, so we're hoping for a nice mellow December.
Good luck with that.