Welcome to 2019, folks. It's a brand new year, so join us as we celebrate New Year's Day, Trivia Today style! Here are five things you didn't know about the New Year's Eve Ball Drop.
Each Crystal Triangle Has a Specific Pattern That Represents a Theme The current ball in Times Square is decorated with Waterford crystal, so you'd expect the ball to have lovely patterns etched into each crystal triangle. However, the patterns aren't random. Each triangle has a pattern that represents a specific theme or idea. Some of these occur year after year, while new ones are also introduced. For example, in 2017, the patterns represented themes like "The Gift of Kindness" (this was a rosette with extended fronds) and "The Gift of Wonder." For 2019, the patterns will once again include "The Gift of Wonder" and "The Gift of Kindness" (among others), as well as bring in the new "Gift of Serenity," which will feature crystal butterflies flying over a meadow.
The Ball Drop Started When a Popular Fireworks Show Was Canceled for Raining Ash on Spectators The ball drop wasn't the first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, but it has been the least alarming. Previous to the ball drop, the New York Times sponsored a popular fireworks show in the same location. (At the time, the paper was located in the narrow building now home to the ball drop.) The fireworks show happened three years in a row with enthusiastic crowds filling the streets below. However, the fireworks back then would rain hot ash down on people, and city officials didn't like that. They finally decided to halt the show, but Adolph Ochs, the paper's publisher, still wanted to sponsor a celebration. He came up with the ball-drop idea just in time for the party ushering in 1908.
The Ball Drop Was Inspired by a Daily Timekeeping Ball Ochs had to come up with an idea quickly, but in a crowded, lively city such as New York, finding inspiration wasn't a problem. Ochs thought the time-ball drop at the Western Union building could be the key. A time ball was a ball that would drop at noon daily, and people would literally stop and stare at it as the drop marked the time. Time balls were common features in cities that allowed residents to synchronize watches, appointments, and more, before times across each time zone were standardized (for example, noon in New York City was equal to about 11:48 a.m. in Washington, D.C., when time balls were in use). Ochs realized that if people would stare at this small time ball, they would love a spectacularly lit ball that would mark midnight.
The Ball Has Seen Some Massive Weight Changes The ball in Times Square has seen not only stylistic and material changes, but some massive weight changes as well. The first wood-and-iron ball weighed about 700 pounds, and it became progressively lighter as new versions were introduced—at first. In 1920, the new ball was 400 pounds, and in 1955, it weighed 150 pounds (the owners switched to an all-aluminum ball). For the 1999-2000 drop, a ball with Waterford crystal and a diameter of 6 feet was introduced, with a weight of about a half ton, or a bit over 1,000 pounds. However, the latest Waterford-crystal version—12 feet in diameter and weatherproofed—upped the weight to an astounding 11,875 pounds.
Lots of Other Cities Drop Food in Their Own Version of the Ball Drop It's not a secret that other cities have fireworks and ball drops to mimic what New York does. Many cities, though, drop a food—in some cases, real—instead of a ball. Fake food replicas that are dropped include the giant potato in Boise, Idaho; a giant cluster of grapes in Temecula, California; and a giant Moon Pie in Mobile, Indiana; real food that gets dropped includes 200 pounds of real bologna in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The bologna is then donated to charity for meals. Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin used to drop a dead carp—yes, a real one—but in 2018, the committee that runs the town's multiday Carp Fest decided to stop the drop for logistics reasons. No word on whether future celebrations will include a carp drop.