Ringing in the New Year

13/12/2019 16:18

THE SPECTACULAR BALL DROP AT TIMES SQUARE IN NEW YORK CITY HAS BEEN WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR SINCE 1907.


THE SPECTACULAR BALL DROP AT TIMES SQUARE IN NEW YORK CITY HAS BEEN WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR SINCE 1907.

Over the years, the New Year’s Eve Ball has undergone numerous transformations, from a wrought iron ball introduced in 1920 to an aluminum one used from the 1950’s through the 1990s.

As the world prepares to say goodbye to the 2010s and ring in a new decade, perhaps the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration of all will be taking place in the heart of New York City: the Times Square ball drop.

An estimated one million revelers will pack into the “Crossroads of the World” near the ball, poised atop the One Times Square building, while one billion are expected to watch live on television and streaming media as the seconds tick down to 2020.

This year’s ball, 3.7 meters in diameter and weighing 5.4 metric tons, is covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and illuminated with 32,256 LEDs. It will begin its descent with one minute to go before the New Year, dropping 21 meters in sixty seconds, and light up at the stroke of midnight as more than one ton of confetti is released from nearby rooftops and pyrotechnic effects dazzle the crowds below.

The event is a spectacle of light and sound, but its origins are more modest. The first Times Square ball, dropped at the end of 1907, was just 1.5 meters in diameter, made of iron and wood and adorned with 100 light bulbs.

Still, the festive attitude was evident right from the start. An account in the New York Times on January 1, 1908, described the scene of the drop:

“Tens of thousands stood watching the electric ball. And then - It fell. The great shout that went up drowned out the whistles for a minute. The vocal power of the welcomers rose even above the horns and the cow bells and the rattles. Above all else came the wild human hullabaloo of noise, out of which could be formed dimly the words: ‘Hurrah for 1908.’”

Over the years since, the New Year’s Eve ball has undergone numerous transformations, from a wrought iron ball introduced in 1920 to an aluminum one used from the 1950s through the 1990s. The ball was redesigned in crystal in the year 2000 for the millennium celebration and took its current form in 2007 for the 100th anniversary of the first ball drop. Since 2008, the ball has remained on permanent display in Times Square.

The use of a ball dropping to mark the passage of time is not unique to Times Square. The practice dates back to 1833, when a time ball was installed on England’s Royal Observatory. It would drop at 1 p.m. every day to allow the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers. Dozens of time balls still exist but only a handful are in use, including one at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., which drops at noon each day.

If you’re planning to watch the Times Square ball drop in person, you should be prepared to arrive very early, dress warmly and bring food or eat ahead of time as there are no vendors allowed on the streets on New Year’s Eve. Also note: no public restroom facilities will be available.

Most travel experts advise arriving by early afternoon on December 31 to find a spot to view the ball directly along Broadway from 43rd Street to 50th Street and on Seventh Avenue up to 59th Street. Numerous large video screens will also be set up in the area.


At 6 p.m., the ball will be lit and raised to the top of the pole at One Times Square. Shortly thereafter, hats, balloons and noisemakers will be handed out and musical performances and other entertainment will take place until the big moment at midnight. Featured musicians last year included New Kids on the Block, Sting, Snoop Dogg and Christina Aguilera.

If you’re in New York but don’t want to brave the elements and crowds in Times Square, a number of nearby hotels and restaurants also offer views of the ball drop, including the Renaissance New York, Marriott Marquis and Novotel New York Times Square. For those located everywhere else, a live webcast will be available at www.TimesSquareNYC.org.

ALL ABOUT THE BALL

·         Diameter: 3.7 meters

·         Weight: 5.4 metric tons

·         The ball is covered with a total of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles ranging from 12 to 15 centimeters per side.

·         The ball is illuminated by 32,256 LEDs (light emitting diodes) and can display a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns.

Seven versions of the ball have been designed to welcome the New Year. The first ball was made of iron and wood, weighed 317 kilograms, and was covered with 100 light bulbs.

THOMAS MARESCA

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