The countdown

07 March 2008

Southern Crane utilized its new 90-ton capacity 2007 Grove TMS 900 for the acorn drop at New Year's

Southern Crane utilized its new 90-ton capacity 2007 Grove TMS 900 for the acorn drop at New Year's Eve

For the 17th straight year, Southern Crane personnel and equipment were responsible for lifting and lowering Raleigh's famous 1,250-pound copper acorn, at the city's New Year's Eve celebration on January 1, 2008.

Southern Crane has provided its equipment free of charge to the City of Raleigh and Artsplosure organization ever since the acorn drop became a tradition, according to the company.

Earl Johnson III, president of Southern Crane and a Raleigh native, says everyone at the company enjoys the fun. “The crowds really get into watching that acorn come down,” Johnson says. “Raleigh's acorn is famous. Friends all over the country ask me about it. We are delighted to be involved in such a fun signature event for our city.”

Known as First Night, the event was designed to foster public appreciation of visual and performing arts through a family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration. More than 100 cities worldwide host First Night celebrations.

As a part of the festivities, a giant copper and bronze acorn sculpture, created in 1991 by David Benson, is dropped from a crane as midnight approaches. The acorn sculpture was designed to commemorate the city of Raleigh's bicentennial and to celebrate Raleigh's “City of Oaks” moniker.

This year Southern Crane utilized its new 90-ton capacity 2007 Grove TMS 900 for the acorn drop, with Johnson admitting that a smaller crane could have been used.

“We didn't need that size crane for this,” he says. “But the operator had never done this before and he wanted to participate.”

Crane operator David Sabio performed a couple of rehearsals the day of the official drop at midnight to assure the acorn dropped to the speed of the countdown provided by the program master of ceremonies. The crane was rigged with 142 feet of boom and the acorn was lifted to a height of about 130 feet. Using a timer, Sabio lowered the acorn until the stroke of midnight. At that point the acorn is about 10 feet off the ground.

The ceremony is a highlight for the crowds counting down the New Year, Johnson says.

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