The New Year’s Eve Ball in New York’s Times Square will feature Waterford crystal panels in the “Gift of Imagination.” This will include a panel with the design of a single rose bloom recreated from a drawing by 12-year-old Coraliz Martinez, a bone cancer patient in 2011 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She is now cancer free.
This marks the first of the “Greatest Gifts” series which will have a new design each year for the next 10 years. The encompassing theme must reflect something that inspires on a universal level. Waterford partnered with St. Jude’s to explore how the gift of imagination in children leads to curiosity and creativity of arts, literature, medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries. The theme serves to let children know that their dreams and wishes matter. By including a former cancer patient’s design, the CEO of St. Jude’s, Richard Shadyac Jr., hopes this will be a bright spot in lifting children’s spirits throughout the world, especially those who are fighting diseases.
The first New Year’s Eve Ball drop in Times Square was in 1907 but the first one using Waterford crystal was created in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium. All 2,688 crystal panels are crafted by experienced artisans at the Waterford factory in Ireland. The crystals that comprise the skin are replaced every year with new ones. It takes almost a full year to design and cut them for the next year’s ball drop. The featured panel of a single rose bloom was cut with a diamond wheel by the company’s master sculptor, Fred Curtis.
Waterford is known for its endless mirror-like reflections achieved by detailed wedge cuts. As this New Year’s Eve Ball ushers in 2014, the ball will be lit with over 32,000 LEDs — over 8,000 each of red, blue, green and white. That makes a capability of 16 million colors and billions of patterns to produce a kaleidoscope effect.
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square began in 1903 when The New York Times was getting ready to open their headquarters in what was known at that time as Longacre Square. Alfred Ochs, the paper’s owner, wanted to celebrate the occasion by having a midnight fireworks display on the roof Dec. 31, 1903. The building was the second tallest in the city which made fireworks easy to see.
The New Year’s Eve fireworks went on for four years but when Longacre Square was renamed Times Square, Ochs wanted a bigger celebration to attract attention to the area. One Times Square, the headquarters for the Times, had a flagpole on the roof. Ochs hired an electrician to create a lighted Ball that could be lowered from the flagpole. The result was an iron Ball, 5 feet in diameter. It was dropped on New Year’s Eve 1907.
The New York Times moved its headquarters again in 1913, but One Times Square continued to be the location for celebrating the New Year’s Eve Ball drop. In 1920, the first ball was replaced with another 5-foot iron Ball weighing 400 pounds. That was used until 1995 when it was replaced by a Ball with computerized strobe lights and rhinestones.
A new Ball was constructed in 1999 for the new millennium. This one weighed 1,070 pounds and was 6 feet in diameter. It was covered with 504 Waterford crystal triangles, 168 halogen bulbs outside and 432 bulbs inside of clear, red, blue, green and yellow. It also had strobe lights and spinning mirrors. It was last used on Dec. 31, 2006. Waterford designed another Ball in honor of the 100th anniversary. This was 6 feet in diameter, weighed 1,212 pounds, used computerized lighting, LEDs and capable of producing over 16.7 million colors. It did it all by only using the electricity of 10 toasters. This Ball was used one time only.
The last Ball has been used since New Year’s Eve 2009. It has the 2008 design but doubled in size to a diameter of 12 feet and weighs 11,875 pounds. The flagpole had to be enlarged to 475 feet above the street. The Ball stays at the top of One Times Square year-round until the next New Year’s Eve.
Dropping a ball to mark the passage of time is nothing new. England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich installed the first “time-ball” in 1833. Ships in the area could set navigational instruments called chronometers with the one o’clock ball drop every afternoon. Approximately 150 time-balls were installed throughout the world but only a few continue to work. One place where a time-ball continues to descend every day at noon is the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Once a year, the New Year’s Eve Ball drop takes place in Times Square as a way of marking those few seconds counting down to midnight and the coming year. This year, it marks the gift of imagination of those hopes and dreams of childhood.
By Cynthia Collins