Ringing in the New Year in a New Way

Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop Goes Virtual


2012 Ball Drop: Crowds in full effect to celebrate the new year of 2012 in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Tori Lanese.

Kathleen Chang, Staff Writer

     The year 2020 has closed, but without the usual jubilant celebration that most anticipate at the end of every year. The annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square made a list of New York City’s modified holiday events—joining others like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

     The Covid-19 pandemic can be to blame for such changes, where New York State’s public health restrictions ruled out the possibility for the typical Ball Drop gathering that takes place every December 31st in Times Square.

     According to the Times Square Alliance, the estimated number of people who normally visit Times Square each year to watch the ball drop in person amounts to one million.

     With such a high number came the need for an alternative, causing organizers to cancel the ordinary ritual and switch to a virtual format instead. Live programming still proceeded but there was very limited in-person honorees and entertainment.

     Other additions to the online New Year’s Eve Ball Drop this year consisted of “significantly new and enhanced virtual, visual and digital offerings,” Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins said in a statement.

     Viewers worldwide had the opportunity to virtually experience Times Square through an app offered by Jamestown  Properties, the owner of the One Times Square building where the ball dropped.

     This was the first time since World War II in which the ball didn’t drop, bringing this 113-year-old tradition to a temporary halt. Besides this exception due to the wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City during 1942-1943, the ball has been lowered every year since 1907, greeting every new year accompanied by massive crowds.

     Such a drastic shift in this iconic New Year’s celebration strikes a chord with spectators everywhere, including senior Tori Lanese who tunes into the Ball Drop yearly and associates it with the welcoming of a new year.

     Lanese says, “It’s tradition to watch [the Ball Drop] and count down the final seconds…I don’t think it will feel the same this year because I won’t be able to enjoy the event with the people I usually spend it with.”

     Her parents have even previously attended the 2012 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, where Lanese has been told stories and has received items from the very event. This has inspired her own desire to attend the Ball Drop in the future when able.

     There is no doubt that this adjustment to the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop impacted how individuals rung in 2021, but perhaps it will also call for more extravagant celebrations in the future.