No “Love” for D.C.'s New Year's Eve

Dropping a stamp seemed like good idea

There once was a time when the District tried to rival New York City with its own version of the Times Square ball drop.

Instead of a crystal ball (or apple), a "Love" stamp was lowered from the spire on the Old Post Office Pavilion building. Then-mayor Marion Barry envisioned a grand event that would eventually best NYC's party plans, as the Washington Post quoted him as saying:

"We're going to outdo New York. We think we might just take over and become the best single event."

Well, the stamp drop got off to a rocky start when the clock struck midnight in 1984. Some digging on Google led us to this story from UPI describing the first stamp drop, which happened two minutes before midnight. Oops. Here are the details:

In Washington, D.C., the newest New Year's tradition went off two minutes early when the Big Stamp dropped at the old Post Office downtown at the stroke of 11:58 p.m. But that didn't stop the 25,000 people gathered in 24-degree temperatures from a collective shout and a rousing round of Auld Lang Syne. ...

Washington D.C. officials promoted the "Grandest New Year's Eve celebration in Washington's history" -- a party they had hoped would rival that of the Big Apple.

Organizers of the Washington festivities outside the majestic old Pennsylvania Avenue Post Office, converted into a downtown shopping and office center, had expected a crowd between 10,000 and 50,000.

The huge wooden "LOVE" stamp was lowered at midnight 200 feet from the top of the Post Office Tower to usher in 1984.

"New York has its ball, we've got our stamp," said spokeswoman Charlotte Sykes. "We hope this will become an annual tradition to rival the activities in Times Square."

It did for a while.  Eventually crowds grew, and an estimated 100,000 people attended the event on Dec. 31, 1985, according to an archived AP story on Google.

However, the city-sponsored gala was marred by violence, as an 18-year-old woman was found dead in a stairwell at the Pavilion just 100 yards away from a stage where Cab Calloway had played earlier. James Brown had also performed outside for thousands of revelers.

The event apparently lost its luster after that, and was eventually dropped by the District.

But other parts of the area still have their own NYE dropping traditions. In Easton, Md., a giant crab is dropped when the clock strikes midnight. Fredericksburg, Va., is excited to unveil its new pineapple, which will fall tonight for the first time. The town used to have a pear, but it has been replaced.

"They told me the pear is out," designer Orlando Davidson told "I said, OK, a pineapple then. A big pineapple."

Right on, Orlando! This one sounds like it could become THE best fruit to be dropped on the East Coast:

Covered in gold foil, reinforced with old street signs and topped with florescent green leaves, the faux fruit sits in a custom-designed storage crate that shrouds a New Year's mystery.

What's in the bottom of the box? Davidson won't say, but he thinks people will enjoy it.

"They're going to be surprised," he said. "I just have to make it all come together right."

We can only hope it's SpongeBob.

(Looking for some last-minute NYE plans for tonight in the D.C. area?  Click here!)

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