Mount Olive, N.C. — Every small town has to make a big deal about what it has, and Mount Olive has pickles.
The Mount Olive Pickle Co. sells 110 million jars every year. So, the town symbol became part of its New Year's Eve celebration.
The pickle-on-a-pole started on a lark in 1999 with a few pickle company employees.
"We took our pictures, and there were eight of us here, and we thought it was just tons of fun," employee Lynn Williams said.
The next year, there were 50 people, and 250 the year after that. On Monday, at least 3,000 people were in Mount Olive to watch the pickle drop, which occurred at 7 p.m. – which marks the new year on Greenwich Mean Time.
Bill and Jan Watts made the pickle pilgrimage from Birmingham, Ala., stopping on their way to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"I read about it in a magazine," Jan Watts said. "He likes to go to bed early. I never get to have New Year's Eve with anyone but myself, so I found a place where we can go on New Year's Eve and watch a pickle drop."
Erica Vogel recently moved to Cary from Michigan and said she just had to bring her friend from back home to see this.
"We heard about it on the news, and I can't imagine missing the pickle drop," Vogel said.
Ryan Spencer said he doesn't think Michiganders drop anything down a pole to celebrate the new year. "Definitely not a pickle," he said.
At 7 p.m., the 3-foot-long glowing pickle was lowered into a vinegar vat as the crowd cheered and sang "Auld Lang Syne."
Meanwhile, in the Cumberland County town of Eastover, a giant flea was lowered to the ground for the new year. Across the state, in the tiny Brasstown community in Clay County, organizers said they planned to hold their annual possum drop despite a court order.
An animal rights group sued to stop the event, in which a possum was lowered in a clear box, saying it was cruel to the animal. A judge ruled last month that the state Wildlife Resources Commission didn't have the authority to issue a permit for the event.
Organizers said they might use a stuffed possum Monday night.