Bigger ball will fall at First Night

By Rick Rouan

The 60-pound aluminum ball will drop from outside the Covelli Centre on New Year’s Eve.

YOUNGSTOWN— With a new year comes a new ball to drop at the First Night Youngstown celebration on New Year’s Eve.

The New Year’s ball for the celebration has doubled in size as the organization finishes final preparations for its 10th downtown party.

“First Night was one of the first events in Youngstown that gave people the vision of what could happen downtown,” said Bob Barko, president of First Night Youngstown.

“Ten years later, we’re still going strong.”

The organization is celebrating a decade of family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year’s parties with the installation of a new ball to drop at midnight. The new aluminum ball is 6 feet in diameter and coated with a translucent awning fabric that allows 16 internal lights to shine through. It weighs about 60 pounds. The old ball was three feet in diameter and made of metal with lights strung around it.

In the past, the ball has been mounted on a pole atop the Youngstown City Hall Annex, but this year the Youngstown Fire Department will drop the ball 100 feet from its aerial ladder outside the Covelli Centre on Front Street, said Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th.

“We felt it was time for a new ball,” he said. “It’s going to be an incredible night.”

As of Monday afternoon, the ball was still undergoing final construction at O’Neal’s Tarpaulin & Awning Co., 549 W. Indianola Ave., where the awning material that coats the outside of the ball is being sewn together and attached with Velcro.

The material likely would last 10 years if used on an awning, but it should never need to be changed on a ball that is only brought out for one night every year, said Greg O’Neal, owner of O’Neal Tarpaulin & Awning Co.

“The only reason this should ever need changed is if they want to change the color,” O’Neal said.

The event kicks off at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 20 Federal Place and concludes with the ball dropping at midnight. In the hour leading up to the ball drop, The Zou and Jason Alan Magic bands will play outside the Covelli Center, Barko said. A full listing of events and venues can be found at the First Night Web site,

Admission to the event costs $10 for adults, $5 for students age 13 through college (with an identification card from the university) and free for seniors and children under 12.

The event costs about $35,000 to put on for about 4,000 to 5,000 attendees, but that figure does not include in-kind services provided by the city, Swierz said.

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