Why drop a ball when you could lower a crab pot?
Happy New Year's Eve from The Food Section
The Food Section on Monday published one last pre-holiday break feature about culinary events at historic sites of enslavement. In today’s issue, you’ll find pickles, (Mount Olive, N.C.); blueberries (Burgaw, N.C.); MoonPies (Mobile, Ala.) and crabs (Morehead City, N.C.)
Food will be falling all over the South next week as cities and towns usher in the new year by dropping sculpted versions of local favorites.
Well, scratch that: Most of the food will fall in North Carolina, the epicenter of New Year’s Eve culinary object-drop fever.
“100 percent,” Morehead City recreation supervisor Victoria Ward said when asked if her state had a special fondness for hoisting and lowering food-like items on Dec. 31. “I’m from Pensacola where they drop a pelican.”
Places outside of North Carolina have experimented with food-themed New Year’s Eve drops: Fayetteville, Arkansas hosted a hog drop until 2018, when organizers announced they needed time to recuperate from their seven-year stand on the downtown square. Dothan, Alabama had high hopes for its Peanut Drop, but the event came to an ignominious end when images of the phallic nut hit social media.
“Unfortunately, (it) looked less like a peanut and more like, well, you get it,” a local TV station told its all-ages audience on Jan. 1, 2017.
Still, North Carolina doesn’t have a total monopoly on New Year’s Eve fun: An oversized peach is scheduled to once again descend at Underground Atlanta, which rolled out its drop in 1989. Following a two-year break for the pandemic, the party will return with Ashanti as its headliner.
Read on for an introduction to the rest of the food-themed drops across the region:
New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop, Mount Olive, North Carolina
Perhaps the best known of the Southern drops, the New Year’s Eve Pickle debuted in 1999 before a small audience of company employees. But the event has lately grown so big that it can no longer be staged safely alongside Mt. Olive Pickle Company headquarters: This year, the glowing pickle will be suspended above the University of Mount Olive campus.
All attendees will be treated to free pickles. And those who can’t make the party in person can participate via livestream: The pickle drops at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Fourth Annual Blueberry Drop, Burgaw, North Carolina
Dropping a blueberry in Burgaw seemed like a “no-brainer” to municipal leaders eager to compete with Raleigh’s acorn and Mount Olive’s pickle, says Cody Suggs, the town’s parks and recreation director.
Burgaw is home to the North Carolina Blueberry Festival. But more importantly, replicating something round and blue for drop purposes isn’t terribly complicated.
“It was actually constructed by students in Cape Fear Community College’s welding department,” Suggs says of the orb, roughly 6-feet in diameter, which yearly draws thousands of spectators. “We keep it stored all year and take care of it.”
In addition to the drop, the evening’s festivities will include performances by a bluegrass band; a Journey cover band and the town’s blueberry queen, who will sing the national anthem. The free event will wrap up by 8 p.m., but blueberry fans who’d prefer to stay home (or watch from afar) can tune into last year’s virtual Blueberry Drop at any time.
“We dropped the blueberry same as always and recorded it,” Suggs says. “It shocked us how much participation we had online.”
MoonPie Over Mobile, Mobile, Alabama
When Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson in 2008 announced plans to make good on his dream of dropping a huge electric MoonPie, constituents were skeptical.
“He's not the first and I'm sure he won't be the last tycoon to spend taxpayers' money,” one Mobile Press-Register reader grumbled, pointing out that $9000 could have bought groceries for hungry families during the holiday season. Another correspondent proposed launching the MoonPie into Mobile Bay to better simulate tossing the treats from Mardi Gras floats.
In fact, the first MoonPie wasn’t dropped: It was lifted (“for logistical reasons,” according to event spokeswoman Harriet Shade) at a distance from the gathered crowd.
As a result, “The giant pie looked more like a regular one to some,” the Press-Register reported glumly.
Richardson was sensitive to criticism, assuring detractors in the days leading up to the event that MoonPies “transcend racial and economic lines.” But concerns about its expense faded in the face of excitement over a 600-pound snack, which now sinks from the 34th floor of a downtown building.
The drop’s typical audience numbers more than 50,000 people. Richardson remains MoonPie Over Mobile’s honorary chair.
Crab Pot Drop, Morehead City, North Carolina
Morehead City twice drops its crab pot from the top of a firetruck’s aerial ladder: First at 6 p.m. for children, and then again at 12 midnight as a cue for the new year’s first fireworks.
“We have a local artist that made this giant crab out of some kind of tree bark type thing,” Morehead City recreation supervisor Victoria Ward says of the pot’s resident crustacean. “They painted it red and added lights.”
Ward likens the featured plant to a cactus, but the drop is otherwise highly local.
“It’s a coastal tradition,” she says.