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Times Square ball drop will be virtual this year, organizers say

The typical Times Square revelery will be put

The typical Times Square revelery will be put on hold this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: AP/Craig Ruttle

The annual ball drop to herald the new year is going virtual, without the usual crowd of millions of spectators in Times Square — the latest tradition to fall due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Shrinking the in-person revelry is in accordance with a mayoral order, in place since around springtime and extended on Wednesday, barring city agencies from issuing permits for processions, parades, street fairs, events or other gatherings bigger than a block.

In response to the pandemic’s "changes and challenges," the Times Square ball-drop ceremony is being scaled back — with small, in-person components and much of the festivities streamed online, according to a news release from the event’s organizers.

In ordinary times, two million people typically gather in person at Times Square, many showing up hours in advance to wait in pens before the midnight ball-drop on Dec. 31.

The tradition of a ball dropping in Times Square dates back to at least 1907.

But for 2020 into 2021, the Times Square Alliance, the area’s business improvement district, said in a news release there will be "a virtually enhanced celebration that brings Times Square and The Ball to you digitally no matter where you are, scaled-back and socially-distanced live elements still to be determined, and an extremely limited group of in-person honorees, socially distanced, who will reflect the themes, challenges and inspirations of 2020."

"A new year means a fresh start, and we’re excited to celebrate," according to a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio in the alliance’s news release.

Since the pandemic emergency began in March, signature parades and other citywide events have been scaled back or canceled, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade, as well as annual events celebrating Israel, Puerto Rico and LGBT Pride, and the Fourth of July fireworks.

On Sept. 14, Macy's announced that its 90-year-old Thanksgiving Day Parade would "shift to a television only special presentation."

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