New Year's Eve 'Pickle Drop' Canceled Due To COVID-19
In a move that could leave pickle fans feeling more sour than sweet, the town of Mount Olive, North Carolina, has decided to can its annual New Year's Eve pickle drop, citing concerns related to COVID-19.
Instead, the town will air a "30-minute webcast" on Dec. 31 featuring highlights from past year's events, culminating with a virtual lowering of the pickle at 7 p.m. sharp — midnight in Greenwich Mean Time.
The vinegar-soaked tradition dates back to 1999 when a handful of employees with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company lowered a pickle from the company's 45-foot flagpole at the corner of Cucumber and Vine into a redwood pickle tank.
In recent years, the spectacle has grown to include fireworks, food trucks, and free pickle giveaways. Thousands attended last year's 20th anniversary, which was moved to the University of Mount Olive because of construction at the company plant.
The pickle drop is one of many unusual New Year's Eve traditions in North Carolina. In Raleigh, a 1,200-pound acorn is traditionally lowered from a crane to ring in the new year. The town of Eastover, North Carolina, lowers a giant flea to pay homage to the town's original name, Flea Hill, and the coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina, likes to plunge a mannequin pirate into a creek each Dec. 31.
For years, the town of Brasstown, North Carolina, also grabbed headlines with its annual "Possum Drop." Residents lowered a live opossum in a Plexiglass container until the practice was ended in 2018 amid outcry from animal rights activists and others on social media. Now, a stuffed marsupial is used as the centerpiece of the town's New Year's Eve celebration.
Organizers of the Mount Olive pickle drop say they will still collect online donations for their annual New Year's Eve food drive, benefiting the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
"The pandemic has placed so many more families in economic crisis, and the Food Bank has experienced a 38% increase in need," said Lynn Williams with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company in a news release. "We are always grateful for the generosity of people who attend the pickle drop each year, and so now we are calling on a broader range of pickle fans to join in and help."