Dana Lape wears many hats.

He serves on the Lebanon Area Fair Board, Elizabethtown Fair Board, Lebanon Extension Board, which supervises the 4H offices in front of the fair, Lebanon County 4H Poultry Club, and Lebanon Valley Poultry Fanciers Association, which is a group of adults that show poultry and support 4H, among his responsibilities as a Messick’s Farm Equipment employee and DJ.

Read More: How this father-son duo prepared for the Farm Show’s poultry competition

Lape told LebTown that, in 1994, he called Don Bowman, the host of WLBR’s RadioTalk at the time, and told him his idea of a bologna drop, which is now a decades-long New Year’s Eve tradition in Lebanon County. He first revealed himself as the possible inspiration for the now-widely known tradition in a Facebook post earlier this year.

“Everybody was starting the drops,” Lape said. “It was like a new fad back in the year that I did this. … The pickle drop was one that had come up.”

Read More: The history of Lebanon’s Bologna Drop

While Bowman is no longer here to confirm whether the call occurred, Lape remembers the phone conversation they had during one of his lunch breaks at P.J. Hydraulics, where he worked at the time.

“[P.J. Hydraulics] was one of the best places in Lebanon County to work,” he said. “And we actually made parts and valves for nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.”

Lape’s co-worker, Dave Laudermilch, stood with him while he made the call.

“I was on lunch. And I used to always have WLBR on,” Lape said. “And I was listening to him. And I said to Dave, ‘Hey, I’m going to call him up and tell him we should have a bologna drop.’ I don’t know what made me think of it. And back then, I suggested that they drop it from the side of the Pomeroy’s building, which is now the parking lot at 9th and Cumberland [streets].

“And I’ll never forget Don Bowman. He thought it was sort of funny at first. And he laughed. And he said, ‘What? You’re going to climb up on the roof of Pomeroy’s, and drop a real bologna down, and go squash on the sidewalk.’ I thought that was funny.”

Lape’s idea was echoed by people who called into LDN’s Sound Off from as early as 1995 until its formal suggestion by Rick White, a Palmyra councilman, in August 1997.

On Wednesday, Dec. 31, 1997, Lebanon County ushered in a new year by dropping a 6-foot, 100-pound bologna.

“Man, that’s about the coolest thing when somebody takes your suggestion and starts it,” Lape said.

The first Lebanon County bologna drop kept its crowd at bay, with temperatures in the 20s.

“It was so cold,” Lape said. “And there was hardly anybody there at the beginning. Well, 15 minutes before, because that’s still when they had entertainment and a place to eat across the street at the old Eagles … the parking lot was full of people because they wanted to see what this bologna drop is. …

“The minute that doggone bologna dropped, in less than five minutes, there was nobody left. People ran like crazy because it was so cold.”

Read More: The former Eagle Hotel/Hotel Weimer was once a symbol of luxury in Lebanon

In the 26 years since that inaugural event, the bologna drop grew into the tradition that it is. The event moved locations and was even livestreamed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bologna changed in dimension and even ingredients. A papier mache bologna was dropped on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2000, due to a fire at the Kutztown Bologna plant. Weaver’s Bologna produced the bologna the following year and continues to do so for some time. The bologna for the most recent drop, however, was processed by Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats.

Read More: Downtown Lebanon plans 26th annual Bologna Drop for New Year’s Eve

Another memorable Lebanon County bologna drop for Lape was Friday, Dec. 31, 1999. Amid the Y2K scare, a large crowd gathered, overflowing from the parking lot at 7th and Willow Streets into the streets, to listen to the band playing on stage and watch the fireworks barely visible through the fog.

According to Lape, the fireworks were eventually phased out from the event due to safety concerns.

“Today’s fireworks aren’t that dangerous to buildings if you get the right ones,” Lape said, referencing fireworks set off the roofs of buildings as part of a recent event in Hershey.

Lape then shared his dream for the future of the Lebanon County bologna drop, which would depend on the approval of The Expo Center and other organizations.

“If I could ever wish for my idea to keep on going and take one more step – so, they have it on 8th Street, it becomes a city event – I would love to see the bologna drop become a countywide event,” Lape said.

“Move it to the fairgrounds so we could have fireworks. We could have indoor space to have every community group, every church be able to be part of it, have stands and do things for the kids [including a special drop at 9 p.m. for little kids]. And you could have live music inside. And then, everybody comes out for the bologna to drop. And then have live fireworks. I just think that would be so cool.”

Lape is optimistic about his dream becoming a reality after seeing what the Lebanon Area Fair has been able to achieve.

“You build it. They’ll come,” Lape said.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Weaver’s continues to produce the bologna for the bologna drop. In fact, for the most recent drop, the bologna was produced by Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats.

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.

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