Posted by: Sally Ingraham | January 8, 2008

Times Square, New York City, New Year’s Eve

This has never been a place where I pictured myself being, but as I looked around me on the last day of 2007, it is exactly where I found myself.


Sometimes there are things that seem a little silly, or a little scary, or a little crazy, but you look at them as a worthy experience – or at least as something you can brag about later.


“Oh sure, I’ve been to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I froze my butt off and stood in the middle of 7th Ave. for eight hours, just to watch THE BALL drop at midnight.”


I went into this adventure knowing that it was full of abundant opportunities for mishap and misery. After all, name a person who finds crowds of people, cold temperatures, and long hours of standing an ideal combination. However, it was a good friend of mine who invited me to join her in a Times Square New Years Eve venture, and I figured it was one of those things that you might as well do once. I went into it, therefore, determined to have as much fun as possible.


We were told that we should arrive at Times Square twelve hours in advance. I can now report that this is unnecessary, as the police do not allow entry into the square until four o’clock. My friend and I, having pulled in to Penn Station around eleven, wandered for some time, ate lunch at the Playwright’s Tavern, and eventually went and saw a movie.


Around three o’clock, we came back to the square and followed the growing crowd of people up to 49th Street, where the regular folk were being let in. The NYPD had closed the entire area to vehicular traffic, and many streets were also blocked off to all but the lucky few who had VIP passes. Times Square was full of enclosures built from interlocking police barricades. About four feet high, with bars spaced five inches apart, these barricades made veritable cages for the masses of New Year’s Eve party-ers. Once you went in, you couldn’t come out.


My friend and I passed the distracted police screening at the opening of the enclosure on 7th Ave., and quickly found a place to camp out for the following hours. We picked a place right next to the barricade, so that even with my short stature, I could see around the throngs of people. Although we might have kept warmer deeper in, I would recommend the edge, since I always had a bit of personal space and somewhere to turn where I could get a (moderately) fresh breath of air.

The first couple of hours passed remarkably quickly. The enclosure we were in wasn’t too crowded, and stayed that way right up until eleven o’clock that night, when the people who had stayed on the sidewalks and inside restaurants pushed their way in.


As you might expect, many people slipped in and out of the enclosure to seek bathrooms and food, risking the wrath of the NYPD. After four o’clock the sidewalks were supposed to be closed, but the police men and women spent a great deal of time ushering the frequent trespassers away. The police also often found themselves as the middle-person in an exchange between people inside the enclosures and people outside – passing money and pizza from one side to the other. The S’barro’s on the corner of 7th and Broadway did very good business that night!


At six o’clock the Ball was raised to it’s place at the top of the flagpole on the building called One Times Square. A spurt of fireworks went off. It was the 100th anniversary of the Ball drop, and in honor of this there was a brand new Ball. Since I stood around for eight hours in order to watch this Ball drop, and since it is the international symbol of renewal and new beginning and the New Year, etc., I am going to bore you for a moment with a little of it’s history and facts.


While a New Year’s Eve celebration has taken place in Times Square since 1904, the Ball came about in 1907. Fireworks were banned from the party that year, and the Ball drop was the organizer’s response. The first Ball was made of iron and wood, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It had 100 25-watt light bulbs affixed to it. Since then there have been quite a few replacement Balls, each with improvements including more lights, colored lights, computer controlled lights, mirrors and lights, etc.


The Ball that I saw was 6 feet in diameter and weighed 1,070 pounds. The frame of the Ball was made of aluminum, and it was covered in 504 Waterford crystal triangles of various sizes. The exterior of the Ball was illuminated by 168 light bulbs and the interior was lit with 432 light bulbs of several different colors. In addition, there were 96 high-intensity strobe lights, and the Ball also had 90 rotating pyramid mirrors. All these lights and mirrors and whatnot were computer controlled, so that throughout the course of the evening the ball changed colors and made patterns and to me just looked round and far away. Ah well.


There was of course live music and plenty of famous people, all of whom made appearances on the stage that was high above and to the left of where I stood. I heard Carrie Underwood and the Velvet Revolver and Lenny Kravitz, among others, but the only person I saw was Kid Rock as he exited the stage. Every hour on the hour there was a countdown for the midnights of various other countries, led by Carson Daly or Ryan Seacrest or other such people. Occasionally there were fireworks that shot off from the stage.


The Times Square Alliance sent their sanitation people in red jump suits around with rolling trash barrels full of hats and mittens. The hats were also red, and “Cat in the Hat” looking, soft and floppy. I was glad for the blue mittens, as I had forgotten to bring gloves. Large, long orange balloons were also periodically thrown out into the crowd, and there was always a mad scramble to catch one.


My friend and I had brought cards and crossword puzzles, which we were glad to have, as well as the snacks we had stuffed into our purses. There are no street venders allowed in the area on New Year’s Eve, but at one point a couple of people came around with hot chocolate and coffee.


It was definitely cold, especially right after it got dark, as the wind came whistling down through the buildings. I was dressed fairly warmly and didn’

t suffer too much, but if I ever go again I would bring a blanket. Although being able to sit in the middle of 7th Ave. is pretty special, you have to wonder if it would be a good idea to burn the pants you were wearing!

It makes sense that New Yorkers do not attend this event. I found myself standing near a couple from Texas and a couple from Georgia. The accents that surrounded me were frequently foreign.

Spontaneous fun broke out now and then, amid the general dancing (to keep warm). A congo line snaked through the crowd at one point, and our whole enclosure got “the wave”going for awhile. A game of limbo started up near me, and a bunch of people from the crowd got involved, until the rope of shirts tied together almost touched the ground and the last person had stumbled beneath it.

 The last hour was the longest. My friend and I ate twhat remained of our chips and smashed Hostess Cakes, and tried not to watch the clock. More people made their way into the enclosure with us, until there was hardly any room to make our heat-building shuffling dance steps. 


Finally the moment arrived, or rather the last 60 seconds. The crowd counted down as the Ball dropped 77 feet. As it touched down it’s lights went out and the lights of the 2008 sign came on. A great cheer erupted, fireworks leapt up, confetti rained down, balloons floated off into the sky.


It was all pretty impressive, and in spite of having spent eight hours waiting around for those five minutes to come, I found myself glad that I was there to see it. Even afterward, as my friend and I squished our way through the sardine packed crowd of people trying to leave the square, I felt pretty pleased with myself.


I guess it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to your life or your year, ultimately, if you watch the Ball drop from your couch, on TV, or if you are there to really see it, freezing and cheering in Times Square. You do get a different sense of accomplishment from it though. You know that for one evening you really got out there and took the experiences that presented themselves with as much grace and a sense of adventure that you could muster up.


If I made any resolutions as I stood there watching that silly, brightly lit ball glide back down it’s flagpole, it was simply that I might live every moment of the coming year in the same fashion that I spent my New Year’s Eve – trying to have the best time possible in the circumstances I found myself in.


It’s not a very inspiring resolution, and maybe it’s a little selfish, but at the same time it isn’t an easy resolution by any means. Just think though – if I spent every day making the best of my situation, trying not to complain, and striving to do the interesting thing over the easy thing, how many times would I get pushed out of my comfort zone into that exciting and scary place where growth as a person and citizen of the world is possible? I’m hoping to find out.


Happy New Year, everyone! May you enjoy the adventures that come your way.





  1. I think I would have been claustrophobic in such a tight crowd! Being short too – that adds to the feeling of being closed in!

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