Tonawanda News

November 21, 2013

Twin Cities ball drop back on

Rotary Club adds funding, volunteers for New Year's Eve event

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A New Year’s Eve tradition in North Tonawanda will continue after organizers of the Gateway Harbor Ball Drop received word this week that the Gateway Harbor Ball Drop will get some outside assistance. 

Debbie Darling, vice president of 4DNT, the organization that has held the event every year since 2008, said in late October a lack of funding and a shortage of volunteers would cause the group to put a hold on the ball drop this year. 

But Rick Maier, 4DNT president, revealed this week that the group will now get financial support from the Rotary Club of the Tonawandas, a non-profit devoted to community service, with a promise to also bolster the event’s volunteer ranks as well. 

“The ball drop is back on,” Maier said. “We have partnered up with the Rotary Club of the Tonawandas. They’re helping us staff the event, they’re helping us with funds. They are involved with the community. It’s the perfect fit. They have the people, they have the money and they have the desire to do it. Hopefully this is going to be a lifelong partnership.”

The First Night celebration has featured the quirky ball drop — which became something of a running joke after mishaps prevented an on-time descent for several years running — along with music, food, a pub crawl and a merchant scavenger hunt. Under the new arrangement Maier said several of the offerings previously overseen by 4DNT will now be handed off to other local community and business groups. 

The pub crawl will be taken over by the proprietors of Twin Cities bars and the popular Kids Fun Zone will be run by the Salem United Church of Christ, located on Morgan Street in the City of Tonawanda. A beer tent normally set up near Gateway Harbor with live performances will be put on hold this year. 

However the ball drop itself, which normally descends from a building owned by former Mayor David Burgio at 15 Webster St., may instead be lowered from a crane in the middle on Sweeney Street.  

“We’re going to scale it down a little bit,” Maier said. 

But with 1,500 to 3,000 attendees each of the last several years, Maier said keeping the ball drop going was important for local businesses and the overall character of the Twin Cities despite a few less functions, adding that fireworks are still part of the plan to ring in the New Year. 

“The Rotary (Club) is committed to making these communities a better place,” said JoAnn Mierzwa, Rotary president. “It seemed like a sad thing if the ball drop didn’t happen.” 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.