Times Square Ball
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The Times Square Ball is a time ball located atop the One Times Square building in New York City, primarily utilized as part of New Year's Eve celebrations held in Times Square. Yearly at 11:59 p.m. EST on December 31, the ball is lowered 141 feet (43 m) down a specially designed flagpole, resting at midnight to signal the start of the new year. The first ball drop in Times Square took place on December 31, 1907, and has been held annually since (except in 1942 and 1943 in observance of wartime blackouts). The ball's design has also been updated over the years to reflect new advances in technologies—its original design utilized 100 incandescent light bulbs, iron, and wood in its construction, while its current incarnation features a computerized LED lighting system and an outer surface consisting of triangle-shaped crystal panels. As of 2009, the ball is also displayed atop One Times Square year-round and is removed only for general maintenance.
The Times Square ball drop is one of the best-known New Year's celebrations internationally, attended by at least one million spectators yearly, with an estimated global audience of at least 1 billion. The prevalence of the Times Square ball drop has also inspired other similar "drops" held locally in other cities and towns across the United States.
The first New Year's Eve celebration in what is now known as Times Square was held on New Year's Eve 1904. The New York Times newspaper had opened their new headquarters at One Times Square (at the time, the city's second tallest building) in Longacre Square and persuaded the city to rename the triangular "square" surrounding it for their newspaper (which the city later did on April 8, 1904). The newspaper's owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to celebrate the opening of the company's new headquarters with a midnight fireworks show on the roof of the building on December 31, 1903. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church. However, Ochs wanted a bigger spectacle at the building to draw more attention to the newly-named Times Square. After four years of New Year's Eve fireworks celebrations, Ochs hired sign designer Artkraft Strauss to construct an electrically lit time ball that would be lowered from the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. It was constructed with iron and wood, lit with one hundred 25-watt bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. It was first lowered on New Year's Eve 1908 (December 31, 1907). It originally dropped one second after midnight. Though the Times would later move its headquarters to a larger building at 229 West 43rd Street, the New Year's Eve celebration at One Times Square remains to this day.
The original Ball was scrapped and replaced in 1920. The second ball remained 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter and was constructed of iron, weighing 400 pounds (180 kg). During World War II, the descent of the second ball was discontinued for New Year's Eve 1942 and 1943 due to wartime lighting restrictions in case of an enemy attack. Celebrants instead observed a moment of silence at midnight, followed by the sound of chimes that were played on speakers throughout Times Square. The second ball was scrapped and replaced by a third ball in 1955 made of aluminum, weighing 150 pounds (68 kg), and remained 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. From 1981 to 1989, the third ball was decorated in honor of the I Love New York campaign, with red bulbs and a green stem to give it the appearance of an apple. The original white bulbs returned in 1989, but were replaced in 1991 with red, white, and blue bulbs to salute the troops of Operation Desert Shield. The third ball was revamped again in 1995 for New Year's Eve 1996, adding rhinestones and a computerized lighting system featuring strobe lights. For 1996, the ball's lowering also became computer-controlled using an electric winch. During the first drop with the new winch, however, a glitch occurred during which caused the ball to accidentally stop halfway down for a moment. Following its final use for 1999, the third ball was placed on display at the Atlanta headquarters of Jamestown Group, owners of One Times Square.
An entirely new fourth ball was constructed for the arrival of the new millennium. Weighing 1,070 pounds (490 kg) and measuring 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter, the fourth ball was covered with 504 crystal triangles produced by Waterford Crystal, illuminated externally with 168 halogen light bulbs, and internally with 432 light bulbs of clear, red, blue, green and yellow colors along with strobe lights and spinning mirrors. Many of the triangles were inscribed with messages of a certain theme changing yearly, such as "Hope for Fellowship", "Hope for Wisdom", "Hope for Unity", "Hope for Courage", "Hope for Healing", and "Hope for Abundance". In 2001, the ball's crystals were engraved with the names of organizations who assisted during the September 11 attacks and the nations who were affected by the event. On December 31, 2006 for New Year's Eve 2007, the fourth ball, which was newly rigged with light-emitting diodes by Lighting Science Corporation was dropped for the last time. A duplicate of the fourth ball, also made in 1999, has remained on permanent display at the Waterford Crystal Factory in Ireland.
In honor of the Ball Drop's centennial anniversary, a brand new fifth design debuted for New Year's Eve 2008. Once again manufactured by Waterford Crystal with a diameter of 6 feet (1.8 m), but weighing 1,212 pounds (550 kg), it used LED lighting provided by Philips (which can produce over 16.7 million colors) with computerized lighting patterns developed by the New York City-based lighting firm Focus Lighting. The ball featured 9,567 energy-efficient bulbs that consume the same amount of electricity as only 10 toasters. The 2008 ball was only used once—a new ball introduced for 2009 maintained a similar design, but was re-built to be double its previous size. The updated ball is an icosahedral geodesic sphere, 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter with a weight of 11,875 pounds (5,386 kg). It was also designed to be more weatherproof, as the new ball would now also be displayed One Times Square year-round. Following the 2008 event, the previous ball was placed on display at the Times Square Visitors Center.
Since the 2005–06 edition of the event, the drop has been preceded by the playing of John Lennon's song "Imagine". For 2011, the song began to be performed live; first by Taio Cruz, in 2012 by Cee Lo Green and in 2013 by Train. Cee Lo Green's performance, however, was criticized by fans for his change of a lyric relating to religion.
Countdown clocks 
Since 1996, an animated video countdown timer has appeared on the screen above the pole where the ball drops on New Year's Eve as well as the three screens at the bottom of the building. The clock has changed design since then, with occasional reuses. Here are the clock designs since 1996:
- 1995–96: The countdown was in the style of an old movie "start picture" countdown. This can be seen in the historical documentary by the Times Square Alliance.
- 1996–97 and 1997–98: Numbers showing how many seconds remain until the arrival of the New Year zoom out from the center of the screen and then fade away. Different colored streaks of light follow. This continues until the final second is reached. Then the words "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" are displayed. This clock was only used during ITT Corporation's occupation of the sign.
- 1998–99: Similar to above, but a new typeset is used to reflect Discover Card's occupation of the sign and the numbers explode instead of fading. A ring of fire and a marquee light ring also encircles the numbers. Confetti is added at the end of the countdown.
- 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2002–03, and 2007–08: Numbers zoom outwards from the center without exploding on screen. The seconds are revealed by the separation of a ball into two segments. Gears are placed at the edges of the screen. At midnight, the ball explodes and the words "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" are displayed in front of confetti. This countdown was used four times, the first time being on the upper screen and the subsequent three times on the three lower screens, when the upper countdown was being based on this one.
- 2000–01: The seconds, in gold numbers flashes out in front of a blue and black background. At midnight, the words "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" fade in in front of fireworks.
- 2001–02: In observance of the 9/11 attacks, the countdown had the seconds which zoom out from the center of the screen are revealed by flaps opening and closing every second and spinning around in the shape of a star with the colors red, white, and blue. They all explode at midnight and confetti is showered on the words "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
- 2002–03: A bell in the center of the screen reveals the seconds which then zoom out as it rings along two other bells at the side. This countdown was also based on the 2000 version. After twenty seconds, the screen did not show the remaining time due to an error thus forcing it to shut off. This caused some people to count down off time. However, the screens placed at the bottom still showed the countdown clock from 1999.
- 2003–04: A clock with two hands- one hand moving every second and the other spinning around- shows the countdown on its face. The clock changes its position at certain points. At midnight, the clock explodes as random animations and the words "Happy New Year 2004!" begin to appear on the screen.
- 2004–05: The seconds jump out from the center of the screen and then fall back, with the right digit flipping to the next, in front of a red "hypnotic" background. At every ten seconds, stars also fly out. At midnight, the words "Happy New Year 2005!" jump out.
- 2005–06: No countdown was shown on either the upper or lower screens, as the official countdown was being shown on the Coca-Cola sign on the North Tower of Times Square. Rather, different messages appeared on the upper screens were displayed followed by the words "Discover Card Wishes Everyone A Happy New Year!" at midnight.
- 2006–07: The second numbers in white spin around in front of a red background to reveal the next second. As the numbers flip around, Target's famous bulls eye logo floats around to reflect the retailer's sponsorship of the event. Discover Card's own graphics (see above) cut in on the upper screen at midnight.
- 2007–08: To advertise Toshiba's television sets, a test card based on BBC's Test Card F is shown on a Toshiba Regza TV on the new Toshiba Spectacular, with a pinhole shutter in the middle instead of the reference photograph. This shutter opens and closes every second to reveal the seconds in silver numbers, which then zoom outwards. After twenty-five seconds, lightning begins to randomly flash across the countdown, getting more intense as it approaches midnight. At midnight, the card explodes and the words "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" fade in as confetti showers down. This was the first time Toshiba was involved in the countdown as they took over the screen from Discover Card before the ball drop. From this point onwards, the countdown would involve the numbers zooming out in any matter. Even though the countdowns were sponsored by Toshiba, they were titled "Pontiac G8 Countdowns".
- 2008–09, aka "Circuit": The seconds fade in on a black circle with lightning in it and a yellow marquee light ring in front of a red circuit background. The numbers then zoom out fast. At midnight, the entire screen goes red as the words "Happy New Year!" flash in and white radio waves radiate from the center. (This countdown was done one second early.)
- 2009–10, aka "Clock": The seconds in yellow numbers zoom out of the screen's center, where a second hand of a clock sticks out. Electricity zaps the number as it zooms out. The hand moves counterclockwise instead of clockwise. The timer is placed in front a variety of clock gears. Every 10 seconds the hour indicators around the clock face glow red. Meanwhile, the upper segment of the Toshiba billboard shows more gears and the 2010 sign slowly being lifted up towards the ball, becoming 2010 as it neared the top of the sign. At midnight, the hand stops ticking and the words "Happy New Year!" flip out and the sign that once showed the numbers 2010 on the upper half of the Toshiba Vision comes back down and says "TOSHIBA" instead. This was the first countdown utilizing Toshiba's new interlocking display system known as ToshibaVision. The countdown made its only appearance on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve to simulcast on the lower right corner, via camera. The countdown's theme was loosely based on the entrance to the Paramount Building in Times Square. This countdown is also used for the Global Countdown ceremonies that take place in Times Square on December 31, replacing the year with the current year, then rolling to the next year.
- 2010–11, 2011–12, and 2012–13, aka "Time Warp", or "T1M3 W4RP" (as titled by the animation company who designed it): As the seconds also in yellow numbers but in a new typeface zoom out, they reveal the next second as they disappear from the screen. A pendulum coated with time radiation can also be seen, swinging as the numbers also coated with radiation zoom out from a red "warp" background. A silver art deco border adorns the screens. The upper segment shows an analog clock displaying the current time. At some points, fireworks were added to maintain the theme. At midnight, the pendulum shatters and the words "Happy New Year!" flip out. The timer debuted on the 2010–11 edition of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and made a brief appearance in the 2011 movie New Year's Eve. The countdown's theme was based on the clock on the Paramount Building. (For 2010–11, the Toshiba logo was on the upper portion of the lower Toshibavision screen; it was on the lower portion for 2011–12, which would eventually switch to the upper portion. Also, the upper Toshibavision analog clock was two seconds late for 2011–12. For accuracy purposes, the second hand was removed from the top screen for 2011–12. This countdown theme is now used for global countdown celebrations in the Square.)
Hourly Countdowns are used as practice to ready the crowd for the main countdown at midnight. Their theme and design reflect those as mentioned above. Some of the hourly countdowns started fifteen seconds before the hour. Since 2008, it has started at twenty seconds.
Special guests 
Since 1996–97 to add an additional focal point to the event, the current Mayor of New York City has been joined on-stage by a special guest, selected yearly to recognize their community involvement or significance, in "activating" the ball drop by pressing a button at exactly one minute to midnight. The button itself is merely ceremonial and does not actually trigger the drop, however: it is officially activated from a control room, synchronized using a government time signal. Special guests who have activated the ball drop have included:
- 1996–97: Oseola McCarty
- 1997–98: Randi Fisch, Karl Vetter, Ariel Rodriguez, Dominique Miller, Diana Shen
- 1998–99: Sang Lan
- 1999–2000: Dr. Mary Ann Hopkins from Doctors Without Borders
- 2000–01: Muhammad Ali
- 2001–02: Rudy Giuliani and Judith Nathan; activating the drop was also 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.
- 2002–03: Chris and Dana Reeve
- 2003–04: Cyndi Lauper and Shoshana Johnson—the first U.S. prisoner of war belonging to an ethnic minority.
- 2004–05: Colin Powell
- 2005–06: Wynton Marsalis, a notable jazz musician.
- 2006–07: A group of 8 United States Armed Forces members, including Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Oswaldo San Andres and Master-at-arms 2nd Class Lillianne Perez.
- 2007–08: Karolina Wierzchowska, a valedictorian of the NYPD's academy who also served in the Iraq War
- 2008–09: Bill and Hillary Clinton
- 2009–10: Twelve high school students from New York City high schools on America's Best High Schools' Top 100 "Gold Medal" List
- 2010–11: Former Staff sergeant Salvatore Giunta.
- 2011–12: Lady Gaga (who also performed for New Year's Rockin' Eve shortly prior)
- 2012–13: The Rockettes
Weather at midnight 
The average temperature at midnight in New York City since the ball dropping tradition began in 1907 is 33.7 °F (1 °C).
The coldest event was in 1917 when the temperature was 1 °F (−17 °C), the second coldest was 11 °F (−12 °C) in 1962. The warmest ball drop was 58 °F (14 °C) in both 1965 and 1972. It has snowed during the ball drop just seven times out of 106 events (one being light snow): 1926, 1934, 1948, 1952, 1961, 1967, and 2009, and it has rained multiple times.
Crowd control 
Upwards of one million people go to watch the ball drop each year. The New York Police Department (NYPD) exert strict control over the crowd so as to prevent crushes and stampedes. The technique used by NYPD is to divide Times Square up into sections, commonly referred to as "pens." As people arrive, usually in the afternoon, they are directed into the pens. NYPD starts with the pens closest to 43rd Street, and as those pens get full, closes them to further people and works their way back toward Central Park. Once inside the pen, people may leave, but will not be able to reenter the pen.
Access to Times Square is extremely limited during the course of the celebration. Those staying in hotels in the area need to prove to NYPD that they are in fact guests at those hotels. Additionally, no alcoholic beverages are permitted (as per NYC's open container laws), and there are no portable public restrooms available.
Coverage of the Ball Drop is broadcast annually on both television and the internet; the Times Square Alliance estimated in 2007 that over a billion viewers watch the event yearly. Beginning in 2009–10, the event's organizers began producing its own official webcast from Times Square, broadcast via the video streaming service Livestream.
In the United States, the Ball Drop is televised as a part of New Year's Eve specials on several major television networks. By far the most notable of these are ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Created, produced, and originally hosted by Dick Clark until his death in 2012, and hosted by media personality and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest since 2005–06, the program first aired on NBC in 1972 and '73 before moving to ABC where it has been broadcast ever since. In recent years, it has consistently been one of the most-watched New Year's specials, peaking at 22.6 million viewers for its 40th anniversary in 2012. Following the death of Dick Clark in April 2012, a crystal engraved with his name was added to the 2013 ball in tribute.
Competing broadcasts on the major networks include NBC's New Year's Eve with Carson Daly (hosted by Last Call and The Voice host Carson Daly), and Fox's New Year's Eve Live (which has used various hosts and formats—in 2012, its coverage was co-branded with the American Country Awards to become the country music-focused American Country New Year's Eve Live, hosted by Rodney Carrington)
CNN also carries coverage of the festivities, as part of a more nationwide perspective on New Year celebrations. CNN's coverage, also named New Year's Eve Live, has most recently been hosted by Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. Fox News Channel also broadcasts its own coverage from Times Square, All American New Year, anchored by Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly.
From 1956 to 1976, CBS was well known for its television coverage of festivities hosted by bandleader Guy Lombardo from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, which featured his band's now famous rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight. After Lombardo's death in 1977, CBS and the Royal Canadians (now led by Victor Lombardo) attempted to continue the special, but Lombardo's absence and the growing popularity of ABC's competing New Year’s Rockin’ Eve prompted CBS to drop the band entirely in favor of a new special, Happy New Year, America, which was first hosted by Paul Anka and ran in various formats until 1996.
MTV also offers coverage originating from the network's studios at One Astor Plaza, a building that is located directly in Times Square. For 2011, MTV also held its own ball drop in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, the setting of its popular reality series Jersey Shore, featuring cast member Snooki lowered inside a giant "hamster ball". Originally, MTV planned to hold the drop within its studio in Times Square, however, MTV was asked by city officials to conduct the drop elsewhere.
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