Episode 13 (formerly 1601): New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in NYC


In America, New Year’s Eve celebrations range from calm, family gatherings to lively parties at nightclubs. One of the most well known parties is the outdoor event in New York City’s Times Square. About one million people crowd into the area which has been blocked off from traffic for the evening. Each person needs to buy a ticket and must go through a security check to get in.

The culmination of the night is the famous ball drop, which started in 1907. Atop the tower of the New York Times building located directly in the middle of Times Square is a huge, lighted, glass ball fixed on a metal pole.

The first ball weighed 700 pounds and was made of wood and iron. Incandescent lightbulbs illuminated it. Nowadays, it is a metal, geodesic sphere, 12 feet in diameter. It is covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles lit with LEDs. The whole thing weighs 11,875 pounds. Normally, it sits on the rooftop and is lighted each night of the year.

On December 31 about 6:00 p.m., however, the ball is raised on the pole to a height of about 70 feet above the roof. Then, about 8:00 p.m., entertainment shows featuring celebrity performances start. The whole evening is televised. Billions of viewers in the USA and around the world tune in for the show if they are not gathered in the streets. Both at home and in New York City, people wear party hats and silly glasses with the numbers of the new year on them. They also have toy horns and noisemakers in hand.

At 11:59 p.m. – one minute before midnight and the last minute of the old year – New York City’s mayor pushes a Waterford crystal button to start the ball’s descent. The ball drops (is lowered on the pole) and reaches the roof in 60 seconds at precisely midnight. During the last 10 seconds, all the people watching in person or on television yell out the countdown. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…”

A 12:00 the lights of the ball are turned off and the numbers of the new year simultaneously light up on the front of the building. The crowd goes crazy, blowing their toy horns, rattling their noisemakers, toasting with champagne, kissing, laughing, hugging and jumping up and down. Everyone yells, “Happy New Year!” over and over. Tons of confetti flutter down from the tops of buildings onto the merrymakers.

After a few minutes of wild celebration, the entertainment show ends and people start to leave the area. Afterward, it takes almost 200 workers to clean up about 48 tons of confetti and trash, but the streets are open again by 7:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Fortunately for the partiers, January 1st is a federal holiday.

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