New Year’s Eve is the time for champagne toasts, resolutions, and celebrations with family and friends.
And one of the most legendary places to usher in the New Year is in New York City’s Times Square.
The six-hour-long bash — which has live music performances, celebrity guests, and free schwag — culminates with the famous ball drop at midnight.
And while the event happens overnight, the planning certainly doesn’t.
The New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square is co-produced annually between the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, the firm that represents One Times Square. We spoke to Jeff Straus, President of Countdown Entertainment, and Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance, to find out exactly how much planning goes into this spectacular annual event. We learned some surprising facts on the side.
In 1904, the city decided to throw a New Year's Eve party at One Times Square to commemorate the opening of both the New York Times office building and the city's first subway line.
Prior to 1904, the New Year's Eve celebration was held at Trinity Church, where revelers would throw bricks in the air to celebrate the New Year.
In 1907, the first New Year's Eve ball was dropped from the flagpole at One Times Square.
The iron-and-wood ball was five feet in diameter, weighed 700 pounds, and was adorned with one hundred 25-watt bulbs -- measly compared with today's ball.
Planning for the event starts almost immediately following the prior year's celebration, Tompkins told us.
About 500 people work on all aspects of the event, not including police officers protecting revelers and the New York City sanitation workers who conduct cleanup.
Tompkins told us that they do a test run of the confetti every year on December 29 at 11:00 am from the eighth floor windows of the Times Square Alliance office.
At the live event, the confetti is released by machine from multiple rooftops, but during the test run Tompkins, Straus, and a few other colleagues toss the confetti themselves.
Inspired by a Latin American tradition in which New Year's revelers stuffed dolls with objects representing bad memories before setting them on fire, on December 28 more than 2,000 participants wrote their worst memories from 2013 on slips of paper which were carted away and destroyed by Cintas Document Management.
Before the ball drops, there are a series of live music performances and celebrity guest appearances.
Last year Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, and PSY performed; this year's lineup includes Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Blondie, among others.
The whole event runs for six hours.
Revelers can stream the live event to any Apple or Android mobile device with the Times Square Ball app.
They can also upload their photos onto the app for a chance to have them displayed on the massive Toshiba screen right below the ball.
Each year, ABC televises the 'Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve' program.
The program, which still takes the name of its original host of 40 years, will be hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy this year. Fergie will be hosting on the West Coast.
Once revelers enter into the pens they're not allowed to leave and return -- even for the restroom.
We asked Straus how people manage that.
'I've been doing this for 18 years now, and once the ball goes up at 6, you're so caught up in the energy and excitement and all the activity going on that by the time midnight rolls around, it's all gone by so fast,' he says.
Once the ball hits the bottom of the pole at midnight, the number 2014 -- the new year -- lights up and Times Square is flooded with confetti.
Each numeral in '2014' is seven feet tall and lit by 529 custom Philips LED flood lights that use just 9 watts each. The number 14 is adorned with thirteen multicultural good luck charms to bring good fortune to everyone entering the New Year.
Kissing at midnight is a beloved tradition, and hundreds of thousands of revelers in Times Square uphold that tradition.
Nivea, one of the sponsors of the event, hosts an annual Kiss Of The Year contest, in which they present the winning couple with the opportunity to kiss onstage.
It's so thorough that New Yorkers and tourists venturing out on January 1 will have a very hard time finding evidence of the event having ever taken place. By 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., cleanup is complete, says Straus.
'It's all the New York City Sanitation Department,' he says. 'The city is really the best partner we have.'
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