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 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
Rankin/Bass Productions

If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass. The production company founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass found success in transforming holiday songs and myths into fully-developed television specials in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Their most popular specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, are still staples of holiday programming decades after they first aired.

But not every holiday film that played under the Rankin/Bass banner was an instant success. After adapting the most beloved Christmas stories, the company broadened its definition of holiday material, with varying degrees of success. Some films were forgettable, and others were so strange and unsettling that young viewers forced themselves to forget. Here are some Rankin/Bass specials that may be missing from holiday television marathons this year.

1. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

Scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.
Rankin/Bass Productions

After the stressful events of his 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph deserved a vacation. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), the red-nosed reindeer barely has a day to rest before being sent on his next adventure. When Santa Claus and his reindeer return home to the North Pole after delivering presents on Christmas, they learn that Happy the Baby New Year is missing. It’s up to Rudolph to bring him home before midnight on New Year’s Eve or else the calendar will be stuck at December 31. And because it wouldn’t be a Rankin/Bass cartoon without a terrifying villain, a vulture named Eon the Terrible is racing to catch Happy first so he can live forever. Thankfully, Rudolph has a caveman, a Medieval knight, and Benjamin Franklin on his side.

2. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)

Scene from The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The Little Drummer Boy from 1968 ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. the events of Christmas. This meant that Rankin/Bass’s most overtly religious Christmas special wasn’t an obvious choice for a follow-up, but the studio still released one in 1976. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is inspired by "Silver Bells"—a song whose lyrics have nothing to do with the first Christmas at Bethlehem. In the sequel, the drummer boy Aaron and the wise man Melchior join forces to protect silver bells made for baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers plotting to steal them.

3. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Scene from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
Rankin/Bass Productions

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that Rankin/Bass was running out of Christmas myths to expand into television specials. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, their 1977 stop motion film, tells the story of an outcast donkey who experiences a series of traumatic events during the Roman Empire. After being bullied by other animals, left for dead by his owner, and suffering the loss of his mother, Nestor becomes a hero by carrying a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey didn’t have the same cultural impact as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)

Scene from The First Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

It may have a happy ending, but The First Christmas (1975) is the bleakest movie on this list. An orphaned shepherd named Lucas is taken in by a group of nuns after he’s blinded by lightning. When snow falls during the abbey’s Christmas pageant, Lucas miraculously regains his eyesight and sees snow for the first time. The story swaps Rankin/Bass's signature humor and fantasy for heavy-handed sentimentality, which may be why it didn’t land as well with kids as the company’s other holiday specials. One highlight is a voice performance by Angela Lansbury as the narrator.

5. Jack Frost (1979)

Scene from Jack Frost.
Rankin/Bass Productions

So this film from 1979 is technically a Groundhog Day special, but its connection to winter means it’s usually lumped in with the rest of Rankin/Bass’s Christmas programming. A groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) narrates the story of Jack Frost. After Jack Frost falls in love with a woman on Earth, Father Winter agrees to make him human, with the catch that Jack will turn back into a sprite if he fails to obtain a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring. The special is notable for its weird characters, including a villain with a clockwork horse and henchmen. And—spoiler alert!—because Jack doesn’t get the girl at the end, it’s one of the few Rankin/Bass films that doesn’t have a happy ending.

6. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

Scene from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1979, Rankin/Bass gave two of its most iconic Christmas characters—Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—their own movie. The studio was so confident in the product that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July even had a brief theatrical release overseas. But the film has failed to take the place of the original specials in the public consciousness—maybe because seeing snow snakes terrorize Rudolph and watching an evil wizard transform into a tree were too much for younger viewers to handle.

7. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Scene from Pinocchio's Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The story of Pinocchio may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but that didn’t stop Rankin/Bass from turning the classic Italian fairytale into a holiday special. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) features many of the same themes and characters as The Adventures of Pinocchio—only this version of the tale centers around the puppet’s first Christmas. Santa Claus even makes a cameo appearance.

8. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Scene from The Stingiest Man in Town.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most widely adapted stories of all time, so of course it shows up in Rankin/Bass’s filmography. An insect named B.A.H. Humbug narrates this musical retelling from 1978, with Walter Matthau starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Stingiest Man in Town joins Frosty the Snowman as one of the few Rankin/Bass Christmas productions made with traditional 2D animation instead of stop-motion.

9. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)

Scene from The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Rankin/Bass’s streak of mashing up Christmas with other holidays reached peak weirdness in 1981. That’s when the studio released The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold—a story that follows a young Irish sailor who helps a clan of leprechauns protect their gold from an evil banshee named Old Mag the Hag. By trying to create a special that could air around Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, the filmmakers ended up with something that made little sense at any time of year.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Scene from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1970, Rankin/Bass explored how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus with Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Fifteen years later, the studio produced a film that provided an alternate origin story for the character, based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book of the same name. This second special wasn’t as well-received as the first. It starts with an antler-sporting sorcerer called the Great Ak finding an abandoned baby in the forest. The child is taken in and raised by wood nymphs, eventually growing up to become a jolly man who delivers toys to children—all while fighting monsters called Awgwas on the side. It ends with a council of mythical beings granting Santa Claus immortality. What was arguably Rankin/Bass’s most unusual Christmas special was also the last to use stop-motion animation.

What Exactly is Christmas Tree Flocking?

iStock.com/Spiderstock
iStock.com/Spiderstock

Of the many curious holiday traditions (figgy pudding? wassailing?), one of the oddest has to be spraying down small trees with a mixture of adhesive and cellulose fibers to satisfy our longing for a white Christmas.

That’s what’s happening when you adorn a tree with artificial snow, otherwise known as flocking. And yet, when decorated and lit up, there’s something beautiful and warmly nostalgic about a well-flocked Christmas tree. Here’s how professionals manufacture this Christmas miracle.  

The History of Flocking

We’ve been trying to get that snowy look on Christmas trees for longer than you might think, dating back to the 1800s using substances like flour or cotton. A 1929 issue of Popular Mechanics recommended varnish, corn starch, and flakes of the silicate mineral mica. 

But tree flocking as we know it really caught on in the late 1950s and 1960s, along with aluminum trees and other glitzy (if not natural-looking) decor of the post-war boom. General Mills marketed Sno-Flok home kits, to be applied using a gun that attached to a vacuum cleaner.

Such home kits are not so popular these days, says Tom Leonard, owner of Peak Seasons, one of the country's largest manufacturers of Christmas tree lots supplies and tree flock. Flocking itself, however, has retained a level of appeal. “Sunbelt states use a lot of it because there’s no snow there,” Leonard tells Mental Floss. “It’s tremendously popular. The West Coast, the South, and the Southeast, the vast majority of it is sold in those zones.”

The Science of Flocking

So what exactly is flocking? At its core, flocking means attaching tiny fibers to a surface to create texture (the process is also used in fashion, home decor, and crafts). The Peak Seasons recipe includes paper pulp as fiber, corn starch as adhesive, and boron as a flame retardant—there’s a safety benefit to flocking.

And the company makes a lot of it. Leonard says they're the largest manufacturer of flock in the United States and Europe. “I don’t want to share [how much], but we sell lots of flock. I mean truckloads and truckloads.”

Based in sunny Riverside, California, Peak Seasons starts with paper and a grinder. “It’s like a big roll of toilet paper and it weighs a ton and you feed it into a machine and it comes out a powder,” Leonard says. The exception is certain bright colors—flock comes in white, black, pink, ice blue, royal blue, red, green, gold, and purple—which require cotton fibers instead of paper to hold the dye. The final product is almost like baby powder, shipped all over the country in large, cement-bag-sized bags.

From there you need to affix the stuff in a nice even coat, which is where flock machines like the Mighty Sno-Blower come in. They’re basically big tanks that hold varying amounts of flock depending on the model, plus a mechanism at the bottom to fluff up the powder. The machine then pumps the powder through a hose, and a gun at the end mixes it with a mist of water.

And that’s how flock is born.

The Art of Flocking

You don’t have to go with a professional flocker, or even use manufactured flock. There are all sorts of DIY recipes that include things like soap flakes or even desiccated coconut flakes. But if you do go pro, you want to be in the hands of someone like Paul Iantosca, who has been flocking trees in the Boston area for 20 years.

Flocking one tree in bright purple (white is still most popular), Iantosca first sprays it down with water. Then, in an area closed off with plastic sheeting, he fires up the blower and blasts the tree evenly with what looks like a purple fog. The stuff gets everywhere. He wears a mask to keep it out of his nose, but some high-volume flockers wear full protective coveralls. 

The tricky part to flocking is that you can’t tell if you got it right until it dries. When it goes on, it’s cold and wet like paste. But as it dries, the Christmas magic kicks in and it puffs up, turning into fluffy white (or, in this case, purple) fuzz firmly affixed to the needles.

There are, of course, pitfalls. Not enough water, and the flocking falls off and makes a huge mess. A flocked tree can’t get wet a second time. “It won’t dry again. It’s disgusting actually,” Iantosca says. Also, when you flock a tree, the color highlights its flaws. A janky tree turns into a weird, uneven shrub.

But if you get it right and string it up with lights, you’ve got a real stunner on your hands. Iantosca’s had flocked trees for his own home for the past 10 years and his kids won’t let him go back.

“When you plug that thing in, it absolutely glows inside," he says. "It’s unbelievable.”

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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