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PINEAPPLE RINGS IN YEAR
A special pineapple will welcome the new year at First Night Fredericksburg

Date published: 12/31/2009

BY JONAS BEALS

According to the Times Square Web site, a metalworker named Jacob Starr fashioned the first New Year's Eve Ball out of iron, wood and 25-watt light bulbs in 1907. It was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds.

One-hundred years from now, local New Year's Eve revelers may recall Orlando Davidson--a city of Fredericksburg metalworker who built a 12-foot-tall Styrofoam pineapple in 2009.

The pineapple, long a symbol of hospitality, was a popular decorative item in Colonial America.

Fredericksburg's First Night celebrations have featured a pear drop in the past, but city officials decided to make a change this year. They settled on a pineapple, and they picked Davidson to make it.

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

From that moment, just before Thanksgiving, he has been working like a mad scientist in a lab--limited only by his imagination and the 350-pound weight limit of the bucket truck that will drop the pineapple from 50 feet above the corner of Caroline and Charlotte streets at the stroke of midnight.

What he created is a New Year's Eve centerpiece that doubles as an absurdly ambitious piece of folk art.

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."

Davidson is still adding the final touches.

"I put a lot of hours into it," he said. "It's a lot of fun. I enjoy doing it."

Davidson, 54, has been working for the city for three years and received attention for embellishing commonplace items. He added a cannon silhouette to a downtown bike rack, for instance.

"I'm a welder, but I do a lot of artwork," Davidson said. "Whenever I make something, I'll try to put a little something artistic in there."

Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036
Email: jbeals@freelancestar.com


WHAT: First Night Fredericksburg WHEN: Tonight from 7 p.m. until midnight WHERE: Downtown Fredericksburg HOW: Buy admission buttons at Pohanka Nissan, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania visitor centers, the downtown branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and the Spotsylvania Parks and Recreation office. Children 3 and under attend free. The Fredericksburg Visitor Center will sell buttons during the event.

Visit firstnightfredericksburg .com for more information.