Local News

New Year's Prep: Acorn Polishing

Posted December 19, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Let's see, wrap the gifts, hang the lights, wash the acorn ... WASH the ACORN??

Here in Raleigh, definitely.

The acorn is an oldie but goodie, emblematic as it is of the City of Oaks.

A huge acorn is being polished and shined in preparation for its big night. It will drop New Year's Eve, as it has for the past eight years, despite some people's hopes to lower the boom on the tradition.

"It is made like an orange on the inside. It is 20 sections, and each section has steel grips, and I cover those grips with the copper," explains sculptor David Benson.

The 1,250 pounds of copper and steel that make up the city's official symbol were hoisted into the air to begin official duties to mark the start of a new year.

The acorn has become a tradition in Raleigh, since it was commissioned for the city's bicentennial in 1992.

When organizers of First Night floated the idea of dropping a different object for the year 2000, people thought they were -- excuse the expression -- nuts.

"It was just such a favorite, and we really didn't understand the tremendous popularity," says First Night organizer Gigi Donovan. "We didn't realize how many people had this affection for the acorn."

For some, the affection stems from the acorn's connection with the City of Oaks. For others, the affection grows from legend.

"If you touch it, it's good luck. That's what people say. And it does. I've had really good luck ever since I made it," Benson says.

A rainy morning was not the best luck for the acorn's first dry run. But it didn't stop the rehearsal or stand in the way of a sneak peek at First Night's millennial surprise -- a 50-foot tall inflatable tree, with 12 leaves, one of each month of the year. The Millennium Oak, as it is called, will cap the First Night celebration this year. Many hope the beloved acorn will drop for years to come.

If you want to see the acorn drop in person, you can buy your First Night button in advance at several locations, includingWRAL OnLine.