Updated: Thursday, 01 Jan 2009, 6:59 AM EST
Published : Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008, 2:49 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids partied like it's twenty-oh-nine.
For the first time, a ball dropped at midnight in Rosa Parks Circle ushering in 2009 in front of an overflowing downtown crowd.
New Year's On The Grand , put on by Citadel Broadcasting and the City of Grand Rapids, mirrors the successful Blues on the Mall summer series. On New Year's Eve, the music began with country music star Darryl Worley at 5:30 p.m. The Plain White T's followed. Local band Just Jake played before and after the ball dropped from its 200-foot height.
The crowd got larger as the evening progressed, despite bitter cold temperatures. By the time midnight rolled around, people were lining up along streets surrounding Rosa Parks Circle. Police allowed the throng to stand along Monroe Avenue as they stopped traffic.
The ball was built by Rockford Construction, with help from Specialty Metal Fabricators of Dutton and Westmass Electric in Grand Rapids. They largely picked up the cost of the ball, estimated around $50,000.
The ball is 6'2" in diameter, made of welded steel plates and tubes, with 32 steel bands on the exterior grid. It weighs about 450 pounds and has 448 lights that will use more than 35,000 watts of power, all connected with about a mile of wire. The lights will flash randomly at the discretion of the operator.
Other sponsors covered most of the rest of the expenses. Bud Light is taking care of the band costs, and the city of Grand Rapids is covering some of the cost of the extra police officers. Police will also be patrolling the annual New Year's Eve Griffins game, and there is an event at DeVos Place.
"It took a lot of people to get on board to cover the cost," said Citadel executive Matt Hanlon. "It's expensive. It's way over six figures."
Area bars and restaurants are joining in the celebration, and free and low-cost shuttles will be available to party goers.
In Kalamazoo, the New Year's Fest featured 28 performers in nine different buildings, all accessible with a $5 ticket. The celebration got underway at 5:30 p.m. with the Tuba New Year, and continued well past midnight with many different acts.