Brilliantly lighted eagles will soar high on Friday for the 13th Annual Tamaqua New Year's Eve Ballrise, coordinated by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the TIMES NEWS.
The event is billed as the region's largest and highest welcome to the new year, and may well be the brightest, too.
The celebration includes a jumbotron television with a live feed from Times Square in New York City, featuring Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve with Ryan Seacrest.
The Tamaqua Ballrise is free to the public and will take place in front of the ABC Tamaqua High Rise building begining at 10:15 p.m.
"It's really a family affair," said Linda Yulanavage, executive director, Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce.
As part of the spectacle, illuminated eagles affixed to the building will soar 175 feet to the top of the high rise, triggering the illumination of an oversized 2011 sign.
Music will be provided by DJ Brandon Fritz. The ballrise is a popular event for many.
In its first year in 1998, it was called a ball drop and was staged from the rooftop of the building, the tallest structure in Schuylkill County. The showcase was intended to be a one-time gimmick to introduce the arrival of Tamaqua's 200th birthday at the stroke of midnight, or the year-long Tamaqua Founding Bicentennial celebration.
Two dozen members of the Tamaqua Bicentennial Committee came up with the idea and expected a modest crowd of 200 to 250 to line the sidewalks. To everyone's surprise, more than 1,000 converged on the block. Sidewalks could not contain the hordes as revelers swarmed onto Broad Street shortly before midnight, forcing police to close US209 in the heart of town.
Since then, accommodations are made each year to allow for the throngs who turn out just before midnight.
From the start, Brockton's Frank Fabrizio has engineered the light and sound spectacle, modeled after New York City's Times Square tradition. In later years, the ball was changed to an eagle, a symbolic mascot used by Tamaqua Area High School. The change was made to give the event a uniquely Tamaqua flavor.
The event has had its share of surprises and unusual circumstances.
In 1999, the committee hyped the show as a big countdown to the new millennium and Tamaqua's step into its third century. That year, the ball went up, then down, and then continued to bounce up and down, setting off fireworks and dazzling lights before a crowd of 1,200. The bouncing ball effect was created by Fabrizio.
There was added suspense that year, with many fearing the Y2K bug would blanket the region, and the entire country, in total darkness at the stroke of twelve. But it never happened.
Many say the success of the annual ball rise is attributable to the novelty factor and the spirit of high rise residents, a group that opens its arms on New Year's Eve to host the community and region.
Some residents also open their apartment doors to help with preparation, as Fabrizio and his technicians need access to specific rooms within the building in order to install equipment.
Organizers say support from the Tamaqua police department is an essential part of the evening and helps ensure a safe celebration.
Various local restaurants, fast food eateries, and taverns will be open, some with special hours and fare to accommodate revelers.
"Hopefully the weather will be good and the street will be filled with people," said Yulanavage. Motorists are advised that the 200 block of East Broad Street, US209, will be closed to traffic from 10 p.m. until after midnight.