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Looking back on Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

It's been well over a century since the tradition we know as the New Year's Eve ball drop began. Today, thousands upon thousands gather around their televisions waiting on midnight while millions gather around Times Square, in New York City, in freezing weather to see a phenomenon that begs to be experienced.

New Year's Eve, and ringing in the new year in style, is celebrated in many fashions. Some attend concerts that conclude 30 minutes or one hour past the new year and others may have a small campfire at their home, telling stories and counting down the old-fashioned way. But there was not a party quite like the one celebrated each year by the world’s oldest teenager … Dick Clark.

“Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve” provides entertainment for people around the world sitting in the warmth of their home waiting for the clock to strike midnight. The series began as a competition with other New Year's Eve broadcasts, such as the one presented by Guy Lombardo. Clark was a Times Square reporter during the first episode of the Rockin' Eve series, when it was broadcasted by NBC. The broadcast was moved to ABC the following year where the show is still being broadcast.

On Dec. 31, 1999, the program was expanded to be a day-long broadcast, dubbed ABC 2000 Today, reporting on stateside festivities, as well as certain happenings across the globe. More than 1,000 ABC crew members were a part of the broadcast. The show received a Peabody Award.

2004 was the first year Clark did not participate in the New Year's Eve festivities. Clark suffered from a stroke at the beginning of October. Clark, however, returned the following year, joining Ryan Seacrest who was named co-host.

The 2012 edition of “New Year's Rockin' Eve” was the last episode for Clark as he passed away on April 18, 2012. The program is still being held in Clark's name, hosted by Ryan Seacrest and co-hosted by Jenny McCarthy.

Since the beginning of the program, big-name artists and groups, such as MC Hammer, Miley Cyrus, Billy Joel, Carrie Underwood and many others have been featured performers. 2017 saw the expansion of the program with celebrations in New Orleans, La., allowing for more performers during the program. This year, audience members and viewers can expect to see performances from Christina Aguilera, Dan and Shay, New Kids on the Block, Jennifer Lopez, Shawn Mendes, Kane Brown, Post Malone, Macklemore and many others in New York City, N.Y.; New Orleans, La.; and Hollywood, Cal.

Famously known for the ball drop, Clark's program did not begin the tradition. They did, however, bring the tradition into the limelight of popularity. The first official ball drop took place on New Year's Eve 1907 when designer Artkraft Strauss was hired by Adolph Ochs, The New York Times' owner, to build it from iron and wood. 100 light bulbs lit the 700-pound monster. The ball was used annually until it was retired in 1920. Iron was used, instead of both iron and wood, to construct the second ball, which was retired in 1955 following a two-year hiatus in 1942 and 1943, due to lighting restrictions caused by World War II. The third ball was then constructed of aluminum and weighed approximately 150 lb, more than 450 lb less than the first ever ball. A redesign of the ball came in 1995 when it was decorated with 18 halogen bulbs and 144 strobe lights. The third ball, which was the last ball to have a diameter of five feet, was retired in 1999

The fourth ball was constructed just in time for the 2000 New Year celebration. The fourth ball weighed approximately 1,070 lb, with a six-foot diameter. More than 600 halogen bulbs, 96 strobe lights and 504 triangular Waterford crystal panels made the ball what it was. In 2002, the ball's crystal panels were engraved with the names of those who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The current ball, which you will see drop at midnight on Monday, Dec. 31, was also manufactured by Waterford Crystal, but weighs approximately 11,875 lb. LED lamps are used to light the spherical figure, using less energy than it took to power the bulbs used in previous balls. The ball is on display year-round in Times Square.

“Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve” will air on Monday, Dec. 31, beginning at 8 p.m., on ABC. For more information, log onto newyearsrockineve.com.

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