WASHINGTON, December 31, 2012 — Every year on December 31, people from Manhattan, Kan. to Manhattan, N.Y. stand out in bone-chilling cold, look up and as a strange object begins to slide down toward them, they start counting backwards, 10…9…8…till they hit 1 and then we all erupt like the fireworks overhead with whoops and Rebel yells, bestowing kisses on everyone and anyone.
It’s New Year’s Eve madness and the way we Americans will ring in 2013. You are probably even among the revelers or have been at some time another in your life. I have been one, eons ago in New York’s Times Square.
New York may get fancy schmancy and drop a Waterford crystal ball, dazzling with more than 30,000 LED lights, but in the rest of the country, it’s a bit more real and down home.
Fleas and Crabs
Take Eastover, N.C., which celebrates the New Year with the dropping of the flea. Yep, a flea. Probably because before the town was called Eastover, it was known as Flea Hill, thanks to pigs and other farm animals sleeping under the local tavern and infesting the clientele. Some say the flea-bearing pigs actually burrowed under the church and not the local pub. Whatever the story, Jasper the Flea has his moment every year in commemoration.
A bit further north on the Chesapeake Bay, the good citizens of Easton, Md. celebrate their First Night by dropping a crab, a Maryland crab, of course. It is such a good idea they do it twice, once at 9 p.m. for the kids and then again at midnight, only many of the over-40 crowd end their night with the first crab drop.
Why a crab? This is the heart of crab catchin’ and crab pickin’ country. So of course a crab is dropped.
Oranges and Fish
Down in Florida the most natural food to drop is the orange (or at least a tangerine), which they do from the Hotel Intercontinental Miami. A 35-foot orange is hoisted 400 feet above the street and then at the stroke of midnight, the Big Orange drops. Meanwhile, down in Key West, where the living is even more laid back, the folks drop a six-foot conch at Sloppy Joe’s Bar so that it falls exactly 20 feet to land on top of the bar where the patrons are ready to toast the New Year.
Up in Wisconsin, the 12th Droppin’ of the Carp is about to happen in Prairie du Chien. Lucky is a local, but frozen carp, sporting bright red lipstick and after its descent, people will line up for a good luck smooch. And no, they don’t clean the carp’s lips between kisses. The New Year’s Eve alcohol should disinfect everyone so inclined.
Another place that drops a fish is Port Clinton, Ohio, where for 16 years, a 20-foot, 600 lb. fiberglass Captain Wylie Walleye drops or slides down a line at 12 o’clock. He has now been retired to the Florida Keys, joining the snowbirds that head South. Who knows, he may join the conch. But this year the town is introducing Wylie, Jr. to do the honors.
Wylie Sr. put Port Clinton on the map as one the top ten drops in the country and thousands now flock to the town to chow down on Walleye sandwiches, Walleye chowder and even Walleye cinnamon chips. (See the Walleye drop in the video below.)
Possums and Pickles
But wackier than this is the Possum Drop celebrated in several places. Some use a stuffed possum, but Brasstown, N.C. used a live critter and ran afoul of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which sued the little town for dropping a live possum in a decorated, screened cage just outside of a local convenience store, Clay’s Corner.
The judge agreed that it was both cruel and illegal to lift a live animal high off the ground and drop it with fireworks going off, terrifying the little fellow. The animal was always released after the drop, although some say possum is good eating. The judge’s ruling has left the organizers scratching their heads on what to do. Their options are to use a stuffed possum like Tallapoosa, Ga. or road kill.
At press time there was no word on the planned substitute for tonight’s drop.
North Carolina is also the home of the Giant Pickle Drop in all places Mt. Olive. Not an olive (that’s dropped in Bartlesville, Oka.), but a pickle thanks to the Mt. Olive Pickle Company that has hosted the event for nine years. They are also adding a canned food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The three-foot pickle plunges 45 feet down the company flagpole, landing in a redwood pickle tank at exactly…7 p.m. You read right: 7 p.m., which is midnight Greenwich Mean Time. The reason? So that Mt. Olive officially marks the exact moment of the incoming year and gets everyone home in bed before midnight.
Nice they worry about our shuteye…or lack of it.
Tortilla Chip and Snooki
Once you head out of the Midwest into the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast, New Year’s Eve drops become a rare thing, not even dropping a rubber ball. However, Tempe Ariz. can hold its head high. Since Tostitos Tortilla Chips took over the sponsorship of the New Year’s Eve celebration, the city has had a Giant Tortilla Chip drop during the Fiesta Bowl. A four-foot by four-foot tortilla chip decorated with tiny mirrors, representing salt, leads the countdown to the New Year as fireworks explode and a block party 10 blocks long and four blocks wide rock the city with a 100,000 people once again expected. There are hopes that this year’s chip will make the 15-foot drop into a bowl of — what else? — salsa.
Here is a list of a few other weird, wonderful, wacky “ball drops,” using everything but a ball to welcome the New Year:
The Big Cheese Drop — Plymouth Wis.
Pelican Drop — Pensacola, Fla.
Diamond Drop — Des Plaines, Ill.
Guitar Drop — both Memphis and Nashville, Tenn. and Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Hog Drop — Fayetteville, Ark.
Meteorite Drop — Wetumpka, Ala.
Stuffed Muskrat Drop — Princess Anne, Md.
Sardine Drop— Eastport, Me.
Watermelon Drop — Vincennes, Ind.
Pine Cone Drop — Flagstaff Az.
“Jersey Shore’s” Snooki Drop in 2011 — Seaside Heights, N.J.
Dare anyone to top that last one unless it’s a Donald Trump Drop.
HAPPY WACKY AND WILD NEW YEAR’S, ONE AND ALL!
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