NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly 800 people will be hard at work the next few days to pull off one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve parties.
“We have to blow up the balloons that we hand out to people,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith. “We have to sort of stuff our little goody bags, and there’s still some build-out to be done on the main stages where people perform.
Tompkins added that the celebration has blossomed over the past decade. Ten years ago, “there was one three-minute performance,” he said. This year, there will be 11 major acts.
But the headliner each year is still the ball drop at midnight.
“Even the most cynical person has to be moved when the confetti falls at midnight, and a lot of this confetti has people’s wishes for the new year,” Tompkins said.
“It just makes you feel good about being in New York, and it makes you feel good about being alive.”
As CBS News’ Terrell Brown reported Sunday night, the ball is the largest crystal orb in the world.
“We’re getting ready for New Year’s Eve,” said Jeff Strauss, president of Countdown Entertainment. “We’ve just installed all of the 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles with a new pattern. Come check it out.”
Every year, the ball tells a different story. This year, Strauss was excited about the theme of the gift of imagination.
“One of the triangles is actually imagined by a young girl, a 12-year-old girl, at St. Jude’s Research Hospital, and this was her design, which is a rose, and her message of hope and beauty and positiveness for the new year,” Strauss said.
Fans can follow the 6-ton ball on Twitter, via the account @timessquareball.
“The ball actually tweets,” Strauss said. “And we have people all over the world; we have 180 countries, who participate by tweeting with the ball, watching our webcast, and counting down with us at midnight.”
The tradition of the ball drop dates back more than a century.
“I used to be called the Long Acre Square in the 19th century, and it was a place of actually making carriages, but also a red-light district,” said historian Gwendolyn Wright.
Strauss said the very first celebration was a publicity stunt by the New York Times.
“To open up their headquarters they had the first Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 1904,” Strauss said. “And the first two years they had fireworks.”
But the fireworks proved not to work out so well. They rained down on revelers below and burned their heads, Strauss explained.
“So they had to come up with a new idea, and they used a maritime tradition of lowering a time ball at noon and matched it with a new technology — the electric light bulb — to create a lighted time ball that would drop at midnight to mark the beginning of the new year,” Strauss said.
It was estimated that 200,000 people attended the first ball drop ceremony in 1907, Wright said.
“That was a pretty large number, and they were excited by what was happening at the event,” Wright said.
Today, the midnight bash that Strauss and his company host caters to a much bigger audience.
“We have a million people in Times Square, over 150 million Americans will be counting with us, and over a billion people around the world will see this live, or on news coverage,” Strauss said.
“It’s the most valuable property for advertising in the world,” added Wright.
And difficult though the process of setting up the ball drop ceremony may be, Strauss said it is well worth it.
“Oh, it’s fun. I have the best job in the world,” he said. “I get to plan the biggest party, 365 days a year.”
Also Sunday, organizers performed their official confetti test Sunday from the Hard Rock Cafe marquee, WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native, will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, organizers announced Sunday.
“It feels amazing to have someone who was born in the Bronx, who in her own autobiography talks about how life was a struggle in her early years,” Tompkins said. “She had diabetes starting from age 8. She had some challenges in her family. And she perservered and pursued her dreams and had the will to aspire to greater things. And that’s exactly what New Year’s Eve is about at its best.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will not be participating in the festivities. The outgoing mayor will celebrate in private with family and friends, Tompkins said.
“Being out there for 11 years in the cold, we’re really happy he participated, but we also completely get that this last year, these are his last minutes in office, he wants to do that privately,” Tompkins said.
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