01/02/11 — Wayne rings in the new year

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Wayne rings in the new year

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 2, 2011 1:50 AM

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Helena-Anne Bynum, 7, with a noisemaker in her mouth, watches the three-foot pickle descend at the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s 12th annual Pickle Drop marking the start of the new year at 7 p.m. -- Greenwich Mean Time

MOUNT OLIVE -- The oversized plastic New Year's top hat toppled from Evan Dennis' 5-year-old head every time he tipped it back to let go a blaring toot from his horn.

"You want to see how loud I can make it," he asked, as he put the horn to his lips and blew. "I can make a loud noise."

Evan said he had been using the noisemakers to make a lot of noise, although at that time they were in his father's pocket. He wasn't the only one making noise -- not only was it hard to hear, it was even more difficult to move through a record crowd of nearly 3,000 people that packed the corner of Cucumber & Vine streets Friday night for the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s 12th annual Pickle Drop.

This year's event led the list of the Top 10 Quirkiest New Year's Eve Celebrations in America by TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site. The pickle drop was ranked with other unique New Year's Eve celebrations, including the Peep in Bethlehem, PA, Key West's pirate wench, and the 10-foot Gibson guitar in Memphis.

Perched on top of his father's Nathan Dennis, shoulders, Evan said that the giant pickle dangling from the top of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s flagpole was "cool."

"Awesome," said Evan's sister, Adrianne, 7, when she found out that water would splash out of the tank when the pickle landed in it.

"It is cool," she said.

Nathan Dennis and his family had driven all the way from Charlotte Friday after finding out about the Pickle Drop from his father-in-law, Ed West of Goldsboro.

"We drove in this morning from Charlotte and got to the area about 3:30 p.m.," said Dennis who had never been to the Pickle Drop before. "We have done the one in Charlotte a couple of times were they drop the crown. Other than that we usually just watch on TV."

Dennis said he and his family had been talking on the way to the event about the Pickle Drop topping the list of the 10 quirkiest New Year's Eve celebrations in the country.

"I have been here many times and spread the word as much as I can," West said. "I have one son-in-law here and here is another one. They all came to visit me so that we could come to the Pickle Drop. I love it. It is my favorite thing to do on New Year's Eve because of the crowd and the time of the event.

"I love celebrating New Year's Eve at 7 o'clock versus 12 o'clock. We are going to wander around here a little while and maybe go into the gift store and buy some souvenirs and then we will probably go back and get something to eat and celebrate some more."

West said he read had about the Pickle Drop in the newspaper several years ago and had decided to come and still continues to come each year.

The event started at 6 p.m. with live music, free refreshments, and a canned food drive for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

The three-and-a-half-foot glowing pickle came down the company's flagpole and into a perfectly preserved redwood pickle tank an hour later at 7 p.m. -- midnight Greenwich Mean Time.

Samantha Casey and the Bluegrass Jam of Goldsboro performed and Dr. Alan Armstrong played the bagpipes once the pickle made its timely descent down the flagpole and the crowd sang Auld Lang Syne as Armstrong played.

In addition to the live music, the crowd enjoyed free refreshments -- hot chocolate, cookies and Mt. Olive pickles.

Those bringing donations for the food bank received a chance to win door prizes, including a pool pickle like the one the company uses for New Year's Eve.

The event marked the debut of Ollie Q. Cumber, the company's new mascot who is replacing Mr. Crisp who is retiring and for the first time the Pickle Drop was broadcast on the company' website.

Pickle gift packs were given to those who traveled the farthest. This year they were from Scotland and Nome, Alaska.

After the program, the pickle was raised just above the tank and people took turns having their photo taken while holding another giant pickle in front of the tank.

Others gathered under the Cucumber & Vine street signs for photos.

Roberta Smith of the Beautancus community was standing in line with daughter Stephanie, 8, and sons, Stepfon, 12, and Lee, 2, to get cookies and hot chocolate.

"People get together and you see people you have not seen in a long time," Mrs. Smith said. "Plus you get free pickles and hot chocolate. It gives you something to do with your kids before it gets too late. That is what I like about it."

Stephanie said she enjoyed the Pickle Drop, especially the hot chocolate and the free hats and noisemakers. Mrs. Smith said she would let the children keep the noisemakers Friday night and Saturday.

"Sunday is quiet time," she said.

Mt. Olive Pickle Co. President Bill Bryan thanked the people for attending and explained that the concept of dropping pickles into a barrel had originated in World War II.

Bombardiers were said to be so proficient that they could drop their bombs into a pickle barrel. To prove that claim they were invited to Chicago by Pickle Packers International, the pickle industry's trade organization, to drop pickles from the top of the Chicago Hilton into pickle barrels.

"The most accurate received pickles for life," Bryan said. "The New Year's Pickle Drop got its start in 1999 when Johnny Walker, our president emeritus suggested, no, he insisted, that we have a Pickle Drop to celebrate our designation as the official pickle of the new millennium.

"There were eight people at the first Pickle Drop. Twelve years later here we are and we have added a little more room."

"We had a great crowd tonight and everybody seemed to enjoy it," Bryan said after the event. "The weather co-operated this year and everything went very smoothly. This is just a great community event for all people for all ages.

"We look forward to doing it again next year. Some people came early. I think the weather probably contributed to that and we had a nice steady flow of people coming in tonight and we appreciate the police department helping with traffic control. Our employees do a good job making sure everybody is able to enjoy this event safely."