A Crystal Countdown: The Times Square Ball
December 30, 2015
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal
Filed under: City Life
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Elva Ramirez: Countdown to the New Year's Times Square Ball Drop

The new year will open on a note of wonder.

At least that's the intention of Waterford, the company behind this year's famed Times Square New Year's Eve ball.

The 2016 ball is getting 288 new Waterford crystal panels to ring in the new year. These "Gift of Wonder" panels are cut on both sides with long strands of crystal stretching out from the center, and are meant to represent optimism and a desire to understand, according to Waterford.

"This is reaching for the stars, you want to know what's out there," Waterford Crystal master artisan and spokesperson Tom Brennan said at a viewing on Sunday. "For me the first time I saw this, I thought, 'This reminds me of an Irish sunrise.' That's like something from home."

The Waterford "Gift of..." series will continue through 2023. The current ball is made up of panels denoting "imagination" (represented by intricate wedge cuts), "fortitude" (diamond cuts along a pillar) and, now, "wonder." Each year, older panels come off and the themes are added.

The geodesic sphere weighs 11,875 pounds and is 12 feet in diameter. The ball is made up of 2,688 crystal panels which are bolted to 672 LED modules. The ball contains over 32,000 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs, which can display over 16 million colors and billions of patterns.

By the evening of Dec. 31st, the Times Square ball will have gone through hours of testing, including runs of the hydraulics and lights. Still though, Mr. Brennan concedes his biggest nightmare is "that it gets stuck halfway up," he says. "And then everyone is on '7' and then, 'Where's 6?'"

While no one is physically on up on the platform when the ball drops, engineers are on stand by in case they need to jump in at the last minute.

"You're just hoping with a billion people watching that it doesn't happen," Mr. Brennan said. "Can you imagine? Oh my God."

Matthew Weber from Fanwood, N.J., was among a group of children invited to a private preview of the Times Square ball on Sunday evening. "It's cool," the 5-year-old said. His favorite part? "That it glows."

Emily Rahner, a 9-year-old from Little Silver, N.J., saw the ball drop last year from her sofa with her parents. Seeing it up close is nothing like TV.

"I think it's a whole lot bigger and it's a whole lot more colorful," she said, adding that her favorite color is purple.

"You see it every year on TV and it's this huge icon," said Julianna Traurig, 19, from Simpsonville, S.C. "There it is right in front of your eyes."

She'll be home by New Year's, but doesn't mind. "This is so much cooler," she said, standing just feet from the orb as it glittered and changed colors.

When the ball finally drops on the final second of 2015, it is the culmination of a year's worth of planning. "What we do normally after New Year's is we take about two days off," Mr. Brennan said. "We breathe...but then we start all over again."

Mr. Brennan already has his New Year's resolution: Pay it forward. "Do something small for somebody because hopefully they will do something small for someone else."

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