Watch Gary "Sushi" Marion in Key West, Florida, along with many other New Year's Eve celebrations on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, starting at 10 p.m. ET Monday.
By Kim Segal, CNN
Key West, Florida (CNN) - It started in 1996 as a crazy idea to ring in the new year, but police nearly shut it down.
"They said, 'We have an idea: Let's do a shoe drop. ... We made this shoe for you,'" recalled Gary "Sushi" Marion, the star of a weekly drag queen review in Key West. "'You've got to sit in it for New Year's Eve,' and I said 'OK,' and that is how it started."
So, on New Year's Eve, Marion took center stage inside a massive high-heeled red shoe made out of chicken wire, paper mache and plywood, dangling off the roof of the Bourbon Street Pub along Key West's main street.
Just like the spectacular ball in New York's Times Square, the shoe would be lowered with each final minute of the year until the clock struck midnight.
Crowds started to gather, attracting the attention of police, who tried to shut down the event because the pub owner didn't have a permit.
"(The police) came upstairs to the balcony and told me to get out of the shoe," Marion said. "The owner called the mayor and the mayor was like, 'Leave Sushi alone, close down the street'."
Today, Key West's annual "shoe drop" still stars Marion as Sushi - in a better-constructed shoe - and now attracts attention from around the world.