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Pennsylvania Towns Usher In The New Year With Their Own Take On The 'Ball Drop'

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

You probably know that on New Year's Eve, hundreds of thousands of people gather to watch the ball drop in New York's Times Square.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

KELLY: What you may not know is that across the country, in both big cities and small towns, people also gather to watch the raising or lowering of a whole assortment of things - a giant pine cone in Flagstaff, Ariz. Key West, Fla. lowers a drag diva perched in a massive sequin-covered red high heel. And until recently, a town in North Carolina dropped a live possum.

Well, while these traditions may sound kind of weird to outsiders, for those who grew up with them, like Maya Kasoff of Hershey, Penn., they seem entirely ordinary.

MAYA KASOFF: That was from me, like, the norm when I was a kid.

KELLY: The norm for her, a 300-pound fiberglass Hershey's Kiss. And it wasn't just Kasoff's town. It was many of the neighboring towns as well.

KASOFF: It didn't really occurred to me until I left Pennsylvania to go to college that this wasn't, like, normal. Like, other people from other states don't really do this.

KELLY: This year, Kasoff took to Twitter to compile a list of all the Pennsylvania towns that celebrate this way.

KASOFF: It was on my mind yesterday on New Year's Eve, and I kind of just dashed off a few thoughts about it. And then the list kept growing.

KELLY: And growing and growing to more than two dozen, which led us to ask, does Pennsylvania have more New Year's Eve drops than other states? To find out, we called Pennsylvania's Office of Tourism.

CARRIE FISCHER LEPORE: My name is Carrie Fischer Lepore. I am the deputy secretary of marketing, tourism and film for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

KELLY: Lepore can't say for sure that Pennsylvania has the most, but she did rattle off several dozen towns immediately.

LEPORE: In Pottsville, they drop a Yuengling bottle. In Lower Allen Township, they drop breeches, or pants. In Duncannon, Pa., they drop a gigantic sled...

KELLY: I told you her list went on and on. And some of the items make perfect sense, like the lump of coal in a mining town, a marshmallow Peep in Bethlehem, where the candy factory is located. Others, not so much.

LEPORE: For example, in Dillsburg, Pa., they drop a giant pickle. We have a lot of funny puns. You know, what's the big dill with the pickle drop in Dillsburg? Dillsburg has nothing to do with pickles, the name. But it's something that the community has been doing for many years. And, in fact, they even added a little gherkin drop, a baby pickle.

KELLY: Lepore says that as the tradition has become more well-known across Pennsylvania, more and more towns have wanted to join in. And who knows what Pennsylvania town might join in next year and what they will decide to drop. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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