By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Rick Maier would have liked to have said that the Gateway Harbor Ball Drop went off without a hitch. It didn’t.
With seven minutes to go before the midnight hour a power outage once again caused the glowing silver ball, dangling from a building at the corner of Sweeney and Webster streets, to descend to the ground 33 seconds late. Attendance too was down about 10 percent, Maier said.
But with thousands parading to the downtown area of North Tonawanda in the final hours of 2012, and a well-attended New Years Eve gala at the Tonawanda Castle — the area’s first — Twin Cities residents still benefitted from the proximity of the happenings to their homes and business, which just a few years ago wasn’t the case.
”I think the weather was definitely a factor and influenced attendance a bit,” he said. “But all in all it was a great event.”
When Maier and a group of other volunteers first came together and orchestrated the New Years Eve ball drop in 2008, the downtown areas of both cities weren’t exactly alive each year. Buffalo was often a more sought-after destination for Tonawandans to ring in the New Year.
But that’s now changed, according to Deborah Darling, who has worked alongside Maier since the beginning and views the weather and the tardiness of the ball drop on Monday night as secondary to its economic and cultural importance. In 2011, the ball actually dropped on time, though Darling said she was almost disappointed.
”It’s really become a tradition that we’ve embraced,” said Darling, of the late ball drop. “‘It Ain’t New Years Until We Say It is’” is still our motto. If the ball doesn’t go down on time we get a few extra seconds in the year. And everybody always wants a few more hours in the day. Well, we gave them a few more seconds.”
While tallies of attendance for the many programs scheduled for the the last day of 2012 are still being formulated, Maier and Darling say they will take a few weeks off before moving on to preparations of Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, of which they are also both heavily involved. They added that they will also continue to look for new ways to draw people to the ball drop next year.
”Everybody seemed to have fun despite the cold and the wind and we still had a pretty good turnout,” Darling said. “Now it’s on to the next thing.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.