Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Float from the early years

Float from recent years

   This uniquely American event began as a promotional effort by Pasadena's distinguished Vally Hunt Club.  In the winter of 1890, the club members brainstormed ways to promote the "Mediterranean of the West".  They invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday, where they could watch games such as chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo and tug-of-war under the warm California sun.  The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm; a parade would precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms.  The Tournament of Roses was born.
   "In New York, people are buried in snow", announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting.  "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear fruit.  Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise"!

Queen and her court today

Queen and her court from years gone by

    During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats.  The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won).  Reviewing stands were built along the Parade route, and Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event in 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.

Band picture from recent years

Band picture from years past

  The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since its early days.  The Rose Parade's elaborate floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic natural materials from around the world.  Although a few floats are still built exclusively by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are build by professional float building companies and take nearly a year to construct.  The year-long effort pays off on New Year's morning, when millions of viewers around the world enjoy the Rose Parade.

Grand Marshall, Bill Cosby

Grand Marshall of Parade, Richard Nixon


    The most famous ball in America will make it's decent into Times Square this December, ringing in more than just another "Happy New Year"! among fellow Americans.  While it may be the largest New Year's Eve Ball ever to grace New York City.  It may also be the most eco-friendly ball as well.  The new ball is 20% more energy efficient than the previous one, which will make it a sure crowd pleaser for the many Americans who are becoming more eco-conscious.  At 12 feet across and 11,875 pounds, the ball will be the largest ball to drop in Times Square since the beginning of the tradition.  It also contains 2,668 Waterford Crystals and 32,256 LED's, which make the ball capable of producing more than 16 million colors and several billion patterns.  It will be the most beautiful and breathtaking New Year's Eve Ball to date.  But where did the idea for the ball come from?  Who started this tradition, and when was the Waterford Crystal introduced into this famous past time?

the ball from 1978

The History of the New Year's Eve Ball and the Waterford Crystal

   In 1907, Jacob Starr created a giant ball combining wood, iron, and one hundred 25 watt light bulbs.  The New Year's Eve Ball would become known as one of the most famous tributes tot he New Year in American history.  Weighing in at 700 pounds and stretching 5 feet across, the new tradition was born.  The first ball was used every year until 1920, when it was replaced with a 400 pound wrought iron ball.  From the twenties to the mid fifties the ball remained unchanged.
   Unfortunately, during World War II, the New Year's Eve Ball did not make its usual descent to earth.  In 1942 and 1943, the ball remained unlit in fear of war time enemies attacking.  However, in 1944, the famous New Yorker returned to it's beloved place high atop Times Square.

2000-2007 ball

   In 1955, the ball was replaced yet again for a third time to a smaller, 200 pound aluminum ball.  While the ball was lighter in weight, it was no less famous and no less elegant, and this ball reigned until the 1980's.
   1981 brought a new decade for the ball, while the original ball itself was not actually replaced, the light bulbs, were replaced with red ones.  The pole from which the famous ball dropped was painted green-all of this was done to simulate a "Big Apple".  This was being done to promote the "I Love New York" campaign-more famously known today as the "I heart NY T-shirts, coffee mugs and so forth that we see today.  The ball was returned to its famous bright white bulbs in 1989, at the end of the campaign.

    Aside from a few colored light bulbs and a new paint job, the New Year's Eve Ball remained the same for 40 years.  In 1995, the ball was all but brought into the new century.  It was updated to an aluminum skin with strobe lights, rhinestone gems and more-all generated by computers.  This was also the beginning of the true Waterford Crystal that we know and love today.
   For the millennium, the ball was completely designed.  Aside from the ball that will grace New York's Time Square this December, the ball form weighed in at over 1,000 pounds-making it the largest in both weight and width (at 6 feet across).  It contained a mixture of 168 halogen bulbs and 432 light bulbs of red, green, blue, yellow and white-which were all used in different "Hope" campaign themes.
   This famous New Yorker has been around for over 100 years and will be making its drop from 475 feet above Times Square.