01/01/13 — Pickle plops; 2013 official

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Pickle plops; 2013 official

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 1, 2013 1:46 PM

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Leah Vincent holds her son, Wyatt, 2, to get a better view as they and thousands of visitors take part in the annual Pickle Drop held at the Mt. Olive Pickle plant Monday.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Alyssa Klinger's heart was racing when she heard her ticket number called out, and it took some urging from her father for her to step forward and to claim her prize -- a giant 3-foot-long plastic pickle like the one she had just watched slide down a flagpole and into a vintage wooden pickle vat.

Alyssa was among the thousands of people Monday night who were packed into the area around the corner of Cucumber and Vine streets tighter than dills in a pickle jar for the 14th annual Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Pickle Drop.

Just moments before 7 p.m. (midnight Greenwich Mean Time), the crowd began the countdown as the glowing giant pickle began its descent into 2013.

 No estimate of Monday's crowd was available prior to presstime Tuesday morning, but company officials said it appeared to be considerably larger than last year's when more than 3,000 people gathered to welcome 2012.

The sight of so many people prompted Johnny Walker, the company's president emeritus, to joke there were enough to start another "green season" (cucumber intake).

"We had eight at the first Pickle Drop. It makes me all pumped up. If we had more lights, we could pack (pickles)," said Walker, who is known for his sense of humor.

Walker got the idea for the Pickle Drop from a stunt he recalled hearing about that took place in the 1950s in Chicago.

The story in World War II was that American bombardiers were so accurate they could drop a bomb in a pickle barrel.

Pickle Packers International decided to test that theory in the 1950s and World War II bombardiers tested their skills by dropping pickles from the 20th story of Chicago's Sheraton Hotel.

The event is featured in the November 1955 issue of Life Magazine.

The company parking lot was full well before the 6 p.m. start and cars lined Park Avenue from the pickle plant almost to North Breazeale Avenue. Visitors from Australia, Japan, Italy, Germany and Russia gave the event an international flavor.

Adults and children alike dug through large boxes packed with party hats, horns and other noisemakers.

A line snaked around the company gift shop as people waited patiently for their turn to troll the pickle treasures to be found inside. Across the way, another line had formed for hot chocolate, cookies and, of course, pickles.

The gift shop was supposed to close at 7 p.m., but at 7:30 p.m. was still doing a brisk business.

John Cotter of Wake County and his wife, Lisa, and daughters, Samantha, 14, Sasha, 7, and Shannon, 6, had been in line for about 20 minutes and were finally edging closer to the door.

"We wanted to see what a pickle gift shop looks like," Cotter said. "We have heard about (the Pickle Drop) for a few years and kept on wanting to come down. This year, I looked it up, and it seemed a great thing to do. We came down early. We had an early dinner and worked our way over here.

"We have young kids so we like the 7 o'clock/midnight GMT. We thought that was a great idea. Now we will be home by 10 o'clock. We also brought some visitors with us from Russia tonight. They think this is really, really neat, and pickles are very popular in Russia. I think it is great. I will be back for sure."

He even emailed his neighbors, who also attended the Pickle Drop.

As festival-goers entered the company grounds many dropped off canned food items for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in exchange for tickets and a chance to win pickle booty including the giant pickle Alyssa, 12, won.

"My dad told me to go up there, so I did," she said.

Alyssa said she had no idea what she would do with the pickle other than put it in her room.

"It is heavy though. I might just have to put it on the floor," she said. "I am excited. I thought (the Pickle Drop) was cool. I enjoyed the giant pickle falling. I had to stand on my tippy-toes so that I could get a good view of it."

She said she also enjoyed the balloons released from the vat and the splash of water as the pickle entered the vat. Actually, the splash was a bucket of water thrown over the rim of the vat by a company employee.

Alyssa was at the drop with her younger sister Hannah, 6, and parents, Jeremy and Lisa.

Alyssa had her photo made with Walker and Bill Bryan, company president, helping her hold her prize.

The Pickle Drop in recent years has been recognized as a top New Year's Eve attraction by TripAdvisor.com, ranking as the No. 1 quirkiest New Year's Eve celebration in 2010.

Also, USA Today recently announced the Pickle Drop is one of its "10 great places for a family-friendly New Year's Eve."

According to Geoff Edgers, host of the new Travel Channel show, Edge of America, "Not every New Year's Eve involves midnight carousing. Those celebrating with kids can ring in the year with festivities that emphasize fun and family."

The new Travel Channel show, Edge of America, premiers Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. and showcases unusual festivals and activities.

USA Today reports, "In this corner of North Carolina, nothing says New Year's like a 3-foot glowing pickle."

For those who couldn't make the drop, it was broadcast live via webcast on www.mtolivepickles.com.

Live music was presented by The Harmony Boys, a Pickle Drop staple, as well as Dr. Alan Armstrong, who played the bagpipes once the pickle made its timely descent.