Times Square Ball Drop

The first New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square was in 1904, which marked the opening of the new New York Times Building at One Times Square. Times Square had been renamed from Longacre Square in honor of the new headquarters of the newspaper. 1904 was also the opening of the Times Square subway station. Adolph Ochs, the owner of the newspaper, arranged for fireworks to be fired from the top of One Times Square each year from 1904 to 1907.

Prior to 1904, most New Yorkers rang in the New Year with the bells of Trinity Church. According to the book Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York, by Richard Zacks, “The people…waited for the famed church bells to peal in the New Year with a dozen-tune hourlong medley starting at 11:30 PM and At the stroke of midnight, the world-famous chimes-man played ‘Happy New Year to Thee’ and then later added ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and ‘Home, Sweet Home.’”

According to the official Times Square website, the first New Year’s Eve Ball Drop celebration was in 1907, and the ball has dropped in Times Square to ring in the new year every year since with two exceptions…1942 and 1943 in keeping with the ‘dimout” of the city’s lights during to the war.

The first New Year’s Eve Ball was made of iron and wood and covered with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. It was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. Jacob Starr, a young immigrant metalworker, built the first ball. He founded Artfraft Strauss, a sign manufacturer, and his company performed the ball drop for most of the twentieth century.

According to the Times Square website, “As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled “lobster palaces” and other deluxe eateries in hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers “1908” fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all “flipped their lids” and the year on their foreheads lit up in conjunction with the numbers “1908” on the parapet of the Times Tower lighting up to signal the arrival of the new year.”

Here is the history of the various versions of the Times Square Ball Drop ball:

1920: A 400-pound wrought iron Ball replaced the original.
1955: A 150-pound aluminum Ball
1981: Red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the “I Love New York” marketing campaign
1988: The traditional glowing white Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned.
 1995: The Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls
2000: For the millennium celebration, the Ball was  completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting.
2007: For the 100th anniversary of the Times Square Ball Drop tradition, Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting crafted a new LED crystal Ball with 2,688 crystal triangles and 32,256 LEDs that increased the brightness and color capabilities of the Ball.

And for 2021: The addition of 192 new Waterford Crystal triangles represent the “Gift of Happiness.” The new design is represented by “a sunburst of bright cuts radiating outward like a beautiful sunny day bringing warm smiles and happiness.” Other “gifts” represented are the gift of goodwill, with three pineapples, the Gift of Harmony with small rosette cuts and the Gift of Serenity with “butterflies flying peacefully above a crystal meadow,”. Beneath the crystal panels, red, blue, green and white LEDs allow for millions of color combinations and patterns.

At the stroke of midnight as the ball reaches the bottom of its poll, 3,000 pounds of confetti is released on Times Square. The confetti is made of small pieces of paper each of which contains a wish for the New Year. You can include your wish either in person at the stand in Times Square Plaza or via the virtual wishing wall the Times Square Alliance’s website. 

Here’s what you need to know to watch the 2021 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square.

Times Square will be closed, and no one will be allowed to gather, but the Ball will drop per usual. Here’s how you can watch:

  • Social media
  • Mobile streaming
  • Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021: TV broadcast ABC starting at 8PM.Co-hosted by Lucy Hale, Billy Porter, and Ciara, with musical performances expected to be announced shortly. It can also be viewed on ABC Live on most devices.
  • New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen: TV Broadcast on CNN at 8PM. Appearances include Christina Aguilere, 50 Cent, Shania Twain, and Keith Urban. It can also be viewed on CNNgo on most devices.
  • NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2021: TV Broadcast on NBC from 10-11 PM and 11:30-12:30AM ET. Hosted by Carson Daly. It can also be viewed on the NBC app on most devices.
  • New Year’s Eve with Steve Harvey: TV Broadcast on FOX from 8-10 PM and 11-12:30 AM. It can also be viewed on FOX Now on most devices.
  • Subscription streaming services
    • Hulu + Live TV
    • Youtube TV
    • fuboTV

Also, be sure to check out this recent blog post with dozens of pictures of the 2020 NYC holiday windows.

Images in this article courtesy Countdown Entertainment and USA Today.

Times Square Ball Drop
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