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North Carolina Town Itching To Ring In New Year

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On New Year's Eve, hundreds of thousands of people will crowd into Times Square to count down to the new year, as they watch the glittering, 6-ton ball drop. In Eastover, N.C., this year — they'll be dropping a flea. NPR's Melissa Block speaks to Eastover Mayor Charles McLaurin, who created the 30-pound flea the town will be dropping at midnight on New Year's Eve.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

On New Year's Eve, as always, hundreds of thousands of people will crowd into Times Square to count down to the New Year as they watch the glittering six-ton ball drop.

In Eastover, North Carolina, for the first time this year, they'll be dropping a flea - a flea mascot created over the last few weeks by Eastover's mayor, Charles McLaurin.

And, Mayor McLaurin, I've been looking at a picture of you from the local paper there holding this flea. It's an impressive piece of work, I have to say.

Mayor CHARLES McLAURIN (Eastover, North Carolina): Thank you very much.

BLOCK: How did you make it?

Mayor McLAURIN: Well, it's a combination of plywood and foam, that's spray foam; and wire; and I had a little bit of help from a lady that did some sewing for me, she wrapped it with some fabric she had; latex paint and plywood legs.

BLOCK: And how big would say that flea is?

Mayor McLAURIN: It's probably about 30 pounds, probably about three-foot long.

BLOCK: Now why a flea? Why is Eastover, North Carolina, dropping a flea?

Mayor McLAURIN: It kind of goes back to the mid-1800s, when a lot of the buildings, particularly churches, were a center of activity for the community. They were not underpinned, and animals consequently would get up under the church, whatever, and the church became infested with fleas. And this is a fairly sandy area. So it became known as Flea Hill.

BLOCK: Flea Hill?

Mayor McLAURIN: Flea Hill. As the story goes, church services got kind of bad because people would just itched constantly. And a band of gypsies came through, though, and set up a tent on the church grounds, and they had a solution.

They put black walnut leaves in the tent, and it got rid of the fleas. So the church members did the same thing. So that rid the church of the fleas. So -but the name carried on today, and it's still called the Flea Hill Drainage District. And we had wanted to something a little different and have something kind of comical. So we came up with we're going to drop the flea on Flea Hill.

BLOCK: And how are you going to drop it?

Mayor McLAURIN: We're going to put it on a pole and bring it down, like 10, nine, eight, seven, six, and spotlight it. And it's going to work out pretty good, we think. We just wanted to come up with something a little quirky, and we came up with the flea.

BLOCK: Does the flea have a name?

Mayor McLAURIN: Not yet. We're going to have a contest that night to pick a name for him, and that's what is going to carry forward into the future.

BLOCK: Huh. Well, do you have a name in mind, Mayor McLaurin?

Mayor McLAURIN: Well, we've had some. It might not sound real good, but one of them was Fleabitus(ph).

BLOCK: Fleabitus.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mayor McLAURIN: We've had more of them. One of them was Felix the Flea(ph); Touche(ph); Duncan(ph), which goes - is an old name that comes from Scotland, quite a few people have a heritage with that name. But those are a few that have been thrown out. Flea Flicker(ph), I think we've heard that. That's a football term.

BLOCK: Well, how many people do you figure are going to come out on New Year's Eve to watch you drop the inaugural flea?

Mayor McLAURIN: Well, this thing has mushroomed far beyond what we expected, and we're a population out here of about 4,000 people, our town is. It's a fairly newly incorporated town; we incorporated in 2007. So we're one of the newer towns in North Carolina. We'll probably have 1,000 or so.

BLOCK: That's a lot. That's great. That's a good turnout.

Mayor McLAURIN: It is, that late - that cold night and that late at night.

BLOCK: Are you pretty fond of this flea now that you've made him?

Mayor McLAURIN: Well, probably the people around me are more fond of him than me since I've - you know, I think I could have done better if I'd had more time. But it's one of them things you're on a time schedule. So you push it, you know, as far as you can. It's going to work out real good, I think.

BLOCK: Thats Charles McLaurin, the mayor of Eastover, North Carolina, where, Robert, as we heard, they will be dropping a 30-pound New Year's Eve flea this year.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, we've learned, they'll be dropping a 25-pound frozen carp named, perhaps ironically, Lucky.

BLOCK: In Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, appropriately enough, they're going to be dropping a big, illuminated wrench.

SIEGEL: Wrench. In fact, all kinds of interesting stuff drops in Pennsylvania: a bologna in Lebanon; a marshmallow Peep in Bethlehem and a pickle in Dillsburg.

BLOCK: And not to be outdone is Key West, Florida, where, depending on where you go, you can watch a giant conch shell being dropped or a pirate wench or a drag queen in a red high heel.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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