Tonawanda News

January 3, 2014

New partnership makes for one smooth ball drop

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It was even on time.

About two months after the Gateway Harbor Ball Drop was declared canceled — and about one month after a new partnership between 4DNT and the Rotary Club saved it — the illuminated ball the descent of which has marked the new year in the Tonawandas since 2008 came down again Tuesday night. This time it was from the height of the aerial ladder of the City of Tonawanda Fire Department ladder truck.

A few days later, organizers are declaring the event a success, although it was not without its challenges. 

Bill Miles, the Rotary Club secretary and co-chairman of the event, said the ball drop “went off without a hitch” — despite wind gusts of about 25 mph and wind chills below zero. He estimated hundreds of people were at the scene at Main and Young streets in the City of Tonawanda when the ball started to drop at 20 seconds after 11:59 p.m.

“Just how we planned it,” Miles said. “It was picture-perfect. I can’t thank everyone involved enough for supporting us and making this happen.” 

Miles, a volunteer firefighter in Tonawanda, also thanked the Tonawanda Fire Department career and volunteer divisions for the use of the truck. Organizers were not able to use the past site of the drop at Webster and Sweeney streets in North Tonawanda. 

“This was a team effort,” Miles said.

Debbie Darling, the vice president of 4DNT, which has organized the ball drop for the past six years, said she believes this was the chilliest ball drop so far — by far.

 “Despite the cold and the wind, there were a fair amount of people who turned out. It was kind of exciting because it was something new and different,” she said. “And we knew right when the ball reached the ground because the truck’s sirens and lights went off, which added a whole new dimension to the event. 

“And it looked like we timed it out really well this year, for a change.” 

(The timing of the drop, which has been notoriously quirky since its inception, has become something of a running joke amongst organizers.)

Fire Chief Charles Stuart of the City of Tonawanda had been a little apprehensive about the wind factor heading into New Year’s Eve, but lauded the crew who showed up to help with the drop. 

“We had to get a little technical with the ropes and pulleys, because the wind was really whipping up there,” he said, but at midnight, “everything was right on the money.”