New Year's comes early
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 1, 2012 1:50 AM
Rocky Castro looks up at his son Mick Castro, 4, as Mick blows his noisemaker at 7 p.m. -- midnight Greenwich Mean Time -- during the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s 13th annual New Year's Eve Pickle Drop.
Lacey Ragan, 9, left, Catherine Freemon, 9, and Celie Gross, 9, share a laugh and a pickle during the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s 13th annual New Year's Eve Pickle Drop in Mount Olive.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Her ability to look skyward obstructed by an oversized plastic hat, Lauren Downing turned her focus toward the half-eaten pickle in her left hand.
The 2-year-old must have known it would be nearly an hour before all eyes would fixate on the glowing green object suspended some 100 feet above the crowd -- that time was on her side as she enjoyed the treat that, in many ways, put Mount Olive on the map.
But her sister, Kayla, did enough multi-tasking for the both of them -- surveying the hundreds of faces gathering around the massive brine barrel just in front of her while boasting about the fact that she was already on her second pickle.
And when, 60 minutes later, the crowd, in one voice, began counting down from 10, the girls had a front row seat as the object that stood taller than they did made its decent.
While some Wayne County residents prepared to make their entrances at the particular home, restaurant or bar they chose to mark 2012 in, others had already welcomed the new year.
The Mt. Olive Pickle Co. hasn't waited for midnight for more than a decade.
"We do things early around here and, personally, I love it," said Cindy Taylor, who has been attending the annual Pickle Drop for six years. "This way, the kids can come out and feel like they're a part of things and we can go home and have our grown-up parties once they're asleep."
But when the event was born back in 1999, less than a dozen took advantage of the opportunity to celebrate New Years with those in the Greenwich Mean time zone.
Pickle Co. President Emeritus Johnny Walker was one of them.
"I think there were six people out here," he said. "But look at it now. Look how it's grown."
Mary Whitley is glad it did.
"This is one of our favorite places to be during the holidays," she said, watching her 5-year-old son, Trent, and 9-year-old daughter, Lyla, chase each other around the grounds. "They just love to let their energy out and make noise and this, to them, is one big party."
And when the children began blowing into the complimentary noise makers they had been given upon arriving, they were certainly not alone.
"I can do it for 10 minutes straight," 11-year-old Paul Edgerton said, looking up at his father, Stephen, with a grin. "Time me."
"Knock yourself out," Stephen replied. "Just do it next to Mom and not me, OK?"
His wife, Sonya, rolled her eyes.
"That's fine, honey," she said. "At least now we know who's putting the boys to bed tonight."