Oklahoma City celebrated the arrival of the New Year like most cities across the US last night... except for one tweak on tradition.
As highlighted in the NewsOK, "Although many U.S. locales herald the New Year with some variation on New York City's famed Times Square ball-drop — in Atlanta, it's a giant peach that descends; Bartlesville plunges an oversized olive into an extra-large martini glass at the base of Price Tower — Oklahoma City has always taken the tradition in the opposite direction."
“(We) really wanted to have the same kind of effect that they have in New York … but it's a rising ball,” Peter Dolese, the executive director of the Arts Council Oklahoma City, which organizes Opening Night, downtown OKC's annual New Year's Eve celebration, said. “We don't drop the ball in Oklahoma.”
While the ball rolled up on a flatbed trailer Thursday morning at Bicentennial Park, Dolese wrestled with the huge American flag that soars above the orb, which rises about 200 feet on its New Year ascents.
“In the past there have been times when I've attached the ball and then I've gone ‘Uh-oh, where's the flag?'” Dolese said. “Thirty years of doing this and you finally start to do a few things right.”
Although this New Year marked the 30th anniversary of Opening Night, the rising ball tradition started in 1994. Soon after that year's Opening Night chairman, Richard Howell, championed adding a giant lighted ball to the festivities, Dolese said he got a call from Randy Sudik, president of Allied Steel. Sudik's team had created the 6-foot ball that ascended annually through the rest of the 1990s.
“The story of the ball to me is the group of people that came together to make this happen,” Dolese said.
He said Studio Architecture, W&W Steel and Acme Welding donated time, talents and materials to design and create the 10-foot ball frame, while the Arts Council OKC ordered from a Las Vegas company the 3-foot mirror ball that's nestled in the precise center of the larger sphere.
“It's actually quite an engineering marvel,” Dolese said. “That's a true labor of love right there.”
It takes about 3 ½ hours of labor to set up the ball each year. A few days before the New Year's Eve celebration, Allied Steel helps haul the circular behemoth out of the Arts Council OKC's storage warehouse, loading it onto a trailer and blowing off some of the dust. The company then transports the ball to the finale site on New Year's Eve and provides the 275-ton capacity crane, plus crew, that allows the ceremonial globe to rise.
“We're locally owned, and we've been here since 1939. It's been a real good relationship with the Arts Council and with Peter Dolese,” said Sudik, who was preparing Thursday to watch the ball rise with his daughter and four grandchildren visiting from San Diego, Calif.
For Dolese, preparing the ball involves personally checking the hundreds of Christmas lights encircling the steel frame to make sure they all work.
But he said the midnight moments make the work worth it.
“We take it up just a little bit, and every time you raise it about 10 feet, the crowd just goes wild,” he said.