Tonawanda News — After launching the Gateway Harbor Ball Drop in 2008 as a means to draw local residents to the Twin Cities rather than to nearby municipalities like Buffalo, it has slowly burgeoned into an annual draw.
But now nearing its fifth year, and buttressed by its proximity to roughly 40,000 residents and a growing list of offerings, those in charge of it say they are starting to witness the fruits of their labor.
For years the rag-tag event was almost comical, with the untimely descent of the five-foot ball and its 14 rows of glowing lights never quite hitting bottom at midnight — and leading to the event’s unofficial moniker, “It Ain’t New Years Until We Say It Is.” (They’ve even made T-shirts.)
But that’s changing, according to Deborah Darling, an early member of the group that put it all together. In 2011, the ball dropped on time, as the masses were counting down the final seconds of the year.
“Our ball drop was somewhat of a joke in the beginning because it didn’t go all the way to the bottom,” she said. “We actually liked it, though, because it makes us a little more unique. You never know if the ball is going to come down on time and maybe that’s something that’s a good thing, rather than a bad thing.”
And as logistics have become more organized, the crowds have swelled from hundreds to thousands. The yearly pub crawl has doubled in numbers, family attractions have gained in reputation and business in the downtown corridors of both cities have seen financial incentives.
“Now that we have survived five years it’s growing,” Darling said.
On Wednesday, as crews put the apparatus in place that will hoist the ball at the corner of Webster and Sweeney streets Monday night, Rick Maier, the head of the event, said organizers were finalizing preparations.