25 Odd Items Dropped for New Year's Eve Celebrations

Peeps
Peeps

Don’t live anywhere near New York City but still desperate to see something—anything—drop during the countdown to 2019?

We can help. (Well, we can help some of you. Some of you might have to go on a road trip.) Check out these places that have put their own twists on the rather odd tradition of hoisting a giant object up in the air and watch it descend again as a way to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

1. A Giant Peep // Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Giant Peep being dropped at midnight.
NEPA Scene, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Peeps’s parent company, Just Born, calls the eastern Pennsylvania town home, which is why Bethlehem drops a 4.5-foot tall, 400-pound, illuminated Peep to mark the new year. Though Peeps come in shapes to suit every holiday these days, the drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

2. An oversized flea // Eastover, North Carolina

A cat flea
iStock.com/coopder1

Why the town would create a 3-foot-tall, 30-pound ceramic flea is a real head scratcher—unless you know that the town was once known as Flea Hill.

3. A Moonpie // Mobile, Alabama

MoonPie launch site.
mobile_gnome, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why a MoonPie? According to PR Newswire, the tasty snack cake is the “favored throw” at the Mardi Gras parade (never mind that whole bead thing), which originated in Mobile. Sadly, the 600-pound Moon Pie is electronic, not edible.

4. A real (dead) carp // Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

A hungry-looking carp rising out of the water
iStock.com/mauinow1

Most carp don’t see 15 seconds of fame, let alone 15 minutes. But every year in Prairie du Chien, Lucky the Carp is the center of attention when he’s lowered onto a throne to celebrate the new year.

5. An olive // Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Two martini glasses with olives.
iStock.com/NikiLitov

The brightly lit olive descends from the top of Price Tower, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, and falls neatly into an oversized martini glass.

6. A beach ball // Panama City Beach, Florida

Oversized, decorative beach ball.
Brent Moore, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Paying homage to the tourist industry that keeps the town hopping, Panama City Beach drops an 800-pound beach ball at midnight. Those who prefer beach balls of the non-deadly variety can attend the children’s drop at 8:30 p.m., where more than 10,000 inflatable balls are released from overhead nets.

7. A sardine // Eastport, Maine

Statue of a fisherman in Eastport, Maine.
Chris M. Morris, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The area has sardine fishing and canning roots, but Eastport also drops a maple leaf as a friendly gesture to their Canadian neighbors across the bay.

8. A wrench // Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Person holding a metal wrench
iStock.com/natasaadzic

Get it? Mechanicsburg?

9. A duck decoy // Havre de Grace, Maryland

Duck decoy.
iStock.com/gyro

As home to both a Pat Vincenti Duck Decoy store and a Decoy Museum, it makes perfect sense that Havre de Grace would drop a glowing duck decoy on New Year's Eve.

10. A peach // Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta's peach drop.
chrisjtse, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Go figure. If you prefer your crowd of revelers to be large on New Year's Eve, Atlanta is the place to be: the Peach Drop is the largest New Year's Eve celebration in the southeast.

11. A pinecone // Flagstaff, Arizona

The pinecone drop in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Deborah Lee Soltesz, Flickr // Public Domain

In case you’re missing the connection, here’s a bit of trivia for you: Flagstaff sits in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the world. And the town has come a long way from the garbage can with pinecones glued on it that was used during the drop's inaugural year in 1999.

12. An apple // Manhattan, Kansas

Paying homage to their “Little Apple” nickname, nearly 10,000 residents and visitors gather every year to watch the city drop a brightly-lit Red Delicious. 

13. A chunk of cheese // Plymouth, Wisconsin

Two wedges of cheese.
Susie Wyshak, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It's no doubt got some competition, but Plymouth proudly proclaims itself the Cheese Capital of the World, which is why it drops a large chunk of Sartori cheese to welcome the new year. 

14. A drag queen in a red high heel // Key West, Florida

Drag queen drop in Key West.
sandwich, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Her name is Sushi (the drag queen, not the stiletto). But Sushi is just one of the many midnight drop options in Key West: They also drop a 6-foot conch shell at Sloppy Joe's and a pirate wench at the Schooner Wharf Bar.

15. 200 pounds of bologna // Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Lebanon bologna in a deli.
NatalieMaynor, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you're a cured meat connoisseur, you know that Lebanon bologna is kind of a big deal. So it makes sense that the city would welcome the new year with a hefty helping of bologna. And this year, they're changing things up a bit when a six-foot-tall, papier-mâché version of The Bologna Ranger gets lowered alongside the meat.

 

16. Marshall the muskrat // Princess Anne, Maryland

A photo of a muskrat
iStock.com/rmarnold

As if dropping a giant rodent wasn’t unique enough, Princess Anne has decked the stuffed semiaquatic rodent out in a top hat and bow tie.

17. A pickle // Mt. Olive, North Carolina

Photo of a pickle
iStock.com/domnicky

If you love briny cucumbers, you'll appreciate the 3-foot pickle that drops down the flagpole at 7 p.m. EST ("which also happens to be midnight Greenwich Mean Time," their website tells us).

18. An acorn // Raleigh, North Carolina

Golden acorn on a black background
iStock.com/bodnarchuk

It would take a Godzilla-like squirrel to carry away this 10-foot-tall nut made of 1250 pounds of copper and steel, which was created by sculptor David Benson to celebrate the City of Oaks.

19. A potato // Boise, Idaho

A photo of a potato
iStock.com/belterz

This year will be Boise's sixth year dropping a giant spud.

20. A key // Frederick, Maryland

Photo of an antique key
iStock.com/RapidEye

In 2012, the city of Frederick began the tradition of dropping a 5-foot by 2.5-foot wooden key from a suspension bridge. Why a key? To honor one of its most famous sons, of course—The Star-Spangled Banner lyricist Francis Scott Key.

21. A bunch of grapes // Temecula, California

A bunch of grapes
iStock.com/Rostislav_Sedlacek

There's more than one way to toast the new year. Temecula, which is in the heart of California Wine Country, does it with a 5-foot-by-8-foot bunch of grapes made of 36 illuminated spheres and 48 sequined balls.

22. A music note // Nashville, Tennessee

A golden musical note
iStock.com/JulyVelchev

The Music Note dropped at midnight in Nashville is a nod to the town's "Music City" nickname. (Keith Urban will be on hand to perform before and after the ceremony this year.)

23. A guitar // Memphis, Tennessee

Beale Street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee
iStock.com/Aneese

Nashville isn't the only Tennessee city known for its rich musical history. In Downtown Memphis, thousands of people will gather for the annual Beale Street Guitar Drop.

24. An orange wearing sunglasses // Miami, Florida

Workers watch as the Big Orange, a New Year's time ball, is prepared to be raised onto the side of the Hotel InterContinental
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

What goes up, stays up ... at least when it comes to these objects, which are raised instead of dropped. "Big Orange" is a 35-foot neon orange that climbs 400 feet up the side of the InterContinental Hotel in Miami, right next door to Bayfront Park. And if that's not enough for you, there's also Pitbull.

25. A giant watermelon // Vincennes, Indiana

A watermelon in a garden
iStock.com/Alter_photo

When it gets to the top, the 500-pound watermelon ball opens to release 19 real Knox County watermelons, making a mess that would make Gallagher proud in the splash zone below.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

11 Expert Tips for Carving a Better Jack O'Lantern

Maniac Pumpkin Carvers
Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

Forget two triangles and a toothy grin; this Halloween, take your jack o’lanterns to the next level. We asked Marc Evan, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers—whose crew carves everything from corporate logos for Martha Stewart and the Yankees to replicas of Escher, Klimt, and Van Gogh paintings on as many as 400 pumpkins a season—for a few tips. “We look at it as this new art medium,” Evan says. “For us, it’s this really fun material to work with, and we’re always trying to push the boundaries of what we can carve into a pumpkin.”

1. Get a pumpkin with a stem.

Pumpkins grow on vines and rest on the ground, so the stem is never meant to support the fruit’s weight; a pumpkin without a stem means it’s been handled—or more likely mishandled—a lot. To ensure you’re getting the freshest pumpkin, look for one with a greenish stem. “If a pumpkin has been sitting around, the stems will dry out and get brittle,” Evan says. “The greener the stems the better. We also like when they have a big, thick stem, which is an indication that the walls of the pumpkin will be thick as well. The thicker the stem, the heavier the pumpkin and the better it is for carving or sculpting.” Also avoid pumpkins with blemishes, soft spots, or bugs, as you would when picking out any other kind of fruit.

2. Don’t dismiss a weirdly-shaped pumpkin.

“Part of the fun of pumpkin carving is that pumpkins come in so many shapes and sizes,” Evan says. “We actually almost prefer some of the really awkward ones. They can inspire some unique designs.”

3. Have a pumpkin-carving plan.

Evan recommends drawing out what you plan to do before you ever make a cut on your pumpkin. “We’ll print out a bunch of references to get inspiration,” he says. “And then we’ll draw our design with a pen onto the pumpkin and start carving away.”

4. Wait to carve your pumpkin—but work fast once you start.

You can buy your pumpkin whenever you want—“they should last a really long time until you carve them,” Evan says—but wait until you want display to start carving. He and his crew at Maniac Pumpkin Carvers usually create a pumpkin just 24 hours before an event, and once they start carving, they don’t stop until a pumpkin is finished, which can sometimes take 10 hours. “We’re working with a perishable food item,” Evan says. “As soon as you cut into it, it’s starting to decompose. It’s unpredictable—we’ve had some carved that last three weeks but then others three days. At home, it’s kind of safe to carve it within two or three days of when you really want it for. But if you want it for Halloween, you shouldn’t carve it at the beginning of October.”

5. Keep a water bottle handy while you’re carving your pumpkin.

“Pumpkins don’t oxidize as fast as an apple or avocado would, but if you leave it out on the counter over the course of just one day, you do see the change in the structure of the pumpkin,” Evan says. “It’s losing a lot of moisture, so one thing we do while carving is we’re constantly spraying it, trying to keep it wet. That helps it to stay workable.”

6. Think beyond the typical pumpkin carving kit.

Evan and the Maniac Pumpkin crew will use whatever it takes to carve a pumpkin, including paring knives, lemon zesters, rasps, Exacto knives, saws, and clay sculpting tools. “Ribbon hoops that are normally effective on clay work great on pumpkins,” Evan says. “One of our favorites actually is a linoleum cutter, normally used in print-making—it’s great for doing intricate designs and line work. Really, anything that is sharp can be useful.”

Still, for scooping, you can’t get much better than what comes in a kid’s pumpkin carving kit. “We love those little plastic orange scoops,” he says. “But you can also use big spoons—we have a couple of big, wide salad serving spoons that we’ve snapped the handles off of, and those work really great.”

7. Leave the top of the pumpkin on.

Removing the top not only messes with the structural integrity of the pumpkin, it also cuts off the vine, which supplies the fruit with nutrients and moisture until it’s all dried out. “When you cut around it, you’re kinda cutting off that lifeline that’s keeping the pumpkin fresh,” Evan says. “So we like to keep that intact.” Likewise, cutting off the bottom is a bad idea because “pumpkins give off so much water when you cut them that all that liquid can start oozing out onto the table or whatever surface the pumpkin is on and really make a mess.” Evan favors cutting a hole in the back of the pumpkin instead.

8. Wear rubber gloves.

There’s no getting around it: You’ll have to get a little dirty scooping out the inside of the pumpkin. But if you find the goop that gross, Evan suggests donning rubber gloves.

9. Scoop everything out of your pumpkin. And we mean everything.

Leaving bits of pumpkin goop inside your jack o’lantern is a big no-no. “Those are gonna start getting moldy and then it’ll spread to the walls of the pumpkin,” Evan says. “When we scrape the walls really thin and get every last little stringy bit out, the walls are almost drier and seem to stay that way longer before they start to break down.”

10. Use an electric light to illuminate your jack o’lantern.

Evan recommends LEDs or CFLs. “They get really bright, but they don’t give off heat,” he says. “You want to keep the pumpkin as cold as possible, and if you have a heat source inside of it, the pumpkin is gonna start to cook inside. Which actually can smell nice, but doesn’t help with the longevity of the pumpkin.”

11. To make your jack o’lantern last, pop it in the fridge.

Nothing you can do will add weeks to your jack o’lantern’s life, but there are things you can do to add a few days. “Our favorite thing to do is, when it’s done with display, we’ll wrap it up really tight with plastic wrap and keep it some place really cool, preferably a refrigerator,” Evan says. “If it’s cool at night, near a cool window or in a garage will also work.”

Check out Maniac Pumpkin Carvers’ incredible work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

This post originally appeared in 2014.