Tonawanda News

December 29, 2013


By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Despite concerns about the future of the Gateway Harbor New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in the Twin Cities — so much so that organizers actually declared the ball drop canceled in October — the event is back on and plans are coming into focus for Tuesday’s festivities.

4DNT, the organization that has run the event since 2008, is partnering this year with the Rotary Club of the Tonawandas to present the ball drop and its associated festivities. While there are changes and a general scaling-back, Debbie Darling, vice president of 4DNT, said most events are going forward as usual.

One big change is that the huge, lit-up ball dropped to mark the cusp of the new year will descend from the aerial ladder of a City of Tonawanda fire truck, extended to about 100 feet in the air, instead of from the building at the corner of Webster and Sweeney streets. 

Fire Chief Charles Stuart said the truck will be located on Young Street in the city, with the ball descending into the intersection of Main and Young streets. (The North Tonawanda Fire Department will be on standby in the case of any emergency during that period of time, he said.)

Although initial hopes were to have the ball drop on the Renaissance Bridge, visible from both sides of the canal, the fireworks set up at the center of the bridge mean that that firefighters would not have time to retract the ladder and move away from the fireworks if they’re to go off at the stroke of midnight, Stuart said.

In other changes, there will no concert or big tent on Sweeney Street this year, Darling said, but a disc jockey will perform from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Webster Street in North Tonawanda. The scavenger hunt at local businesses was also a casualty of the event’s issues with adequate manpower.

“We’re hoping to bring it back next year ... we’re hoping to have everything back next year .... but for now, we’re going the best we can with what we’ve got,” she said.

The annual pub crawl is on, however, organized by the proprietors of local bars with some additions, Darling said. 

“It’s a great event to bring people down to the area, but we just didn’t have the manpower, so we turned it back over the pubs themselves,” she said. 

Mugs are available for $10 presale at the Riviera Theatre, Broadway Hotel, Crazy Jake’s, Dwyer’s Irish Pub, Mooney’s, PJ Hooligan’s, the Elks Lodge and the American Legion. (The cost is $15 the day of the event.)

The pub crawl will take place from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; those who make a purchase of any kind at each pub will get a card stamped. Full cards can be redeemed for a 2013 Pub Crawl T-shirts by 1 a.m. at the Riviera. Participants must be at least 21 years old.

For the much younger set, the Kids Fun Zones will take place again from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday for children 3 to 10 at Salem United Church of Christ, 114 Morgan St., City of Tonawanda, and event for children ages 11 and older at Rainbow Roller Rink, 101 Oliver St., North Tonawanda. 

One change is expected — both locations will have an earlier New Year’s countdown and balloon drop at 8:30 p.m. — but most of the usual events at the sites will continue, said Tracey Miles, the Kids Fun Zone chairperson.

“We will have face painters, magicians, and we’re also going to have costumed characters this year,” she said. The balloon drops, which will be at the earlier time due to feedback from parents whose small children were worn out by 9 p.m., will also be twice as big.

“The whole team is just looking forward to doing it,” Miles said. “Everyone who does a job knows what their job is, and spends the entire year looking for ways to make their job better.”

The church site will also include entertainment by Zippedy the Clown, a demo by Niagara Dive & Rescue, bounce houses, games, storytelling and crafts. The rink will provide glow necklaces for the first 50 participants, bounce houses, games and New Year’s hat decorating.

Special buttons (designed this year by Kade Forkey of North Tonawanda) are necessary for admission to the zones and are available for $5 pre-sale at Budwey’s Supermarket, Division Street; Walker Bros. & Monroe Jewelers, Webster Street; and the DeGraff Hospital gift shop, Tremont Avenue, all in North Tonawanda. Buttons will also be available at the door for $6. Parents are admitted free.