Festivals & Annual Events | Times Square Ball Drop - A Brief History

Times Square Ball Drop - A Brief History

It’s amazing that each December 31 people from all over the world travel to New York City for the famous Times Square ball drop. Every year, 42nd Street is host to the thousands of people who pour into Times Square to ring in the new year.

New Years Eve in Times Square 2019

The reason, well known to most, is that they are there to watch the ball drop. Here's a little history of how this celebration became an internationally known and widely televised event.

In 1904, the first celebration took place with around 200,000 people in Times Square as fireworks illuminated the city sky from the rooftop atop one Times Square (the traditional New York Times newspaper building.) But the fireworks were banned in 1907 as city officials deemed them unsafe. That did not stop Adolph Ochs, the New York Times Publisher, determined to find a way to continue to lure people to celebrate New Years’ Eve in Times Square. Indeed, he found that inspiration with an idea from the Western Union Building Downtown where a metal ball dropped each day signifying the time every weekday at noon.  In 1907, on December 31, the very first ball made of iron and wood with one hundred 25 watt light bulbs, five feet in diameter and weighing 700 pounds was lowered from the Times Tower by workers using ropes and pulleys to mark the arrival of the New Year.

times square ball drop

In 1942 - 1943, due to restrictions during World War II, the New Year’s Eve ball was not lowered and revelers, unable to get a view of the ball drop, replaced the moment of the countdown with a moment of silence. In 1972, Dick Clark began his live famous New Year’s Eve Special in Times Square. In 1995 the time ball had a makeover with aluminum, rhinestones, strobes and computer controls, lowered for the last time in 1998. For the millennium celebration in 2000, the ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and enjoyed by over 2 million people in attendance.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, security is huge for the Times Square new year's eve Celebration including bomb sniffing dogs, undercover officers, checkpoints, radiation detectors and thousands of police on duty to keep the public  safe. And as we all know from that day forward, “If you see something, Say something.”

For the 100th Anniversary of the Times Square Ball Drop, Waterford Crystal along with Philips Lighting produced a beautiful 6 ton, 12 feet in diameter, LED crystal ball with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and over 32,256 LED  lights and now a year-round attraction for full public view for New Yorkers and tourists from around the world to enjoy.

Times Square Ball Drop

And for those worried about the massive operation to clean up after over a quarter of a million people, not to mention the confetti, Wikipedia says that after the conclusion of the festivities and the dispersal of attendees, cleanup is performed overnight to remove confetti and other debris from Times Square. When it is reopened to the public the following morning, few traces of the previous night's celebration remain: following the 2013–14 drop, the New York City Department of Sanitation estimated that it had cleared over 50 tons of refuse from Times Square in eight hours, using 190 workers from their own crews and the Times Square Alliance.

Visit this website for some great information and advice for those attending the Times Square ball drop:


Here are some more details about the Times Square ball drop according to Wikipedia

Festivities formally begin in the early evening with the raising of the ball at around 6:00 p.m. ET, upon the conclusion of the 20-second “6 Hours to Go” countdown at 5:59:40. Party favors are distributed to attendees, which have historically included large balloons, hats, and other items branded with the event's corporate sponsors. The hours before the drop are preceded by hourly countdowns for the arrival of the new year in other countries, along with live music performances by popular musicians. Some of these performances are organized by, and aired on New Year's Eve television specials which are broadcast from Times Square.

The drop itself occurs at 11:59 p.m.—the last minute of the year, and is ceremonially "activated" by a dignitary or celebrity joined on-stage by the current Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio; formerly Rudy Giuliani from 1995-96 until 2001-02, and Michael Bloomberg from 2002-03 until 2012-13.[9][10] The conclusion of the drop is followed by fireworks shot from the roof of One Times Square, along with the playing of "Auld Lang Syne" by Guy Lombardo, "Theme from New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra, "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Over the Rainbow" by IZ.

The current Mayor of New York City has been joined by a special guest, selected yearly to recognize their community involvement or significance, in ceremonially "activating" the ball drop by pressing a button, resembling a smaller version of the ball itself, at exactly one minute to midnight.[9] The button itself does not actually trigger the drop; that is done from a control room, synchronized using a government time signal. Special guests who have activated Times Square Ball Drop have included:

1995–1996: Rudy Giuliani And Donna Hanover

1996–1997: Oseola McCarty

1997–1998: A group of five winners from a school essay contest honoring New York City's centennial

1998–1999: Sang Lan (who was injured during the 1998 Goodwill Games and was being rehabilitated in New York City)

1999–2000: Dr. Mary Ann Hopkins from Doctors Without Borders

2000–2001: Muhammad Ali

2001–2002: Rudy Giuliani and Judith Nathan; this was Giuliani's final act as mayor. Michael Bloomberg officially became the new Mayor of New York City upon the beginning of 2002, and took his oath of office shortly after midnight.

2002–2003: Christopher and Dana Reeve

2003–2004: Cyndi Lauper, joined by Shoshana Johnson

2004–2005: Secretary of State Colin Powell

2005–2006: Wynton Marsalis

2006–2007: A group of eight United States Armed Forces members

2007–2008: Karolina Wierzchowska, an Iraq War veteran and New York City Police Academy valedictorian

2008–2009: Bill and Hillary Clinton

2009–2010: Twelve students from New York City high schools on the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best High Schools Top 100 'Gold Medal' List"

2010–2011: Former Staff sergeant Salvatore Giunta

2011–2012: Lady Gaga

2012–2013: The Rockettes

2013–2014: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

2014–2015: Jencarlos Canela, joined by a group of refugees who emigrated to New York City, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee

2015–2016: Hugh Evans

2016–2017: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; this was Ban Ki-moon's final act as UN Secretary-General, as António Guterres took office on January 1, 2017

2017–2018: Tarana Burke

2018–2019: A group of journalists representing the Committee to Protect Journalists

Since the 2005–06 edition of the event, the Times Square ball drop has been directly preceded by the playing of John Lennon's song "Imagine". Until 2009–2010, the original recording was used; since 2010–2011, the song has been performed by the headlining act;

2010–2011: Taio Cruz

2011–2012: CeeLo Green

2012–2013: Train

2013–2014: Melissa Etheridge

2014–2015: O.A.R.

2015–2016: Jessie J

2016–2017: Rachel Platten

2017–2018: Andy Grammer

2018–2019: Bebe Rexha

Pics: By Susan Serra, CKD from Long Island, USA - 222 (2), CC BY-SA 2.0, http://bit.ly/2V591JN. By Andrew Baron - originally posted to Flickr as New Year Aftermath, CC BY 2.0, http://bit.ly/2V59TOz

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