NEW YORK—The ball drops on New Year’s Eve, and the Times Square revelers cheer with delight, while 340 feet above the crowd, a man lets out a sigh of relief.
Anthony Calvano, president of Landmark Signs, is a man that is unnoticed by the crowd on New Year’s Eve. It is his work that gets noticed. He is the man in charge of lowering the 12,000-pound Times Square New Year’s Eve ball that rings in the New Year for millions around the world who watch in person and on TV.
For 25 years, Calvano has not only been managing the drop of the New Year’s Eve ball, he and his employees have also been looking after and repairing 75 percent of Times Square’s flashy signage.
Calvano landed a job in the billboards industry with his uncle just after getting out of the Vietnam War in 1968. He was paid $3 per hour.
“I thought that was pretty good. I got paid 13 cents an hour in the army,” he joked.
At 12 we just switched on the lights and it was New Year. It didn’t matter where the ball was.
—Anthony Calvano, president of Landmark Signs
Things have changed a good amount since Calvano first took the job. The ball essentially started off as a large light bulb, but it is now made of Waterford crystals.
In the ’90’s, the ball was 6 feet tall, weighed 150 pounds, and was comprised of 180 light bulbs. In 2007, Times Square got a new ball made with 672 crystal triangles and cutting-edge LED lights that shine with double the brightness. It now weighs 12,000 pounds.
Calvano and a crew of 10 workers used to guide the ball down by hand by slowly releasing a rope. Someone carefully watched over the time to synchronize the speed of the drop with markers that were placed every 5 feet along the length of the pole.
“The ball never landed on time,” Calvano said. “At 12 we just switched on the lights and it was New Year. It didn’t matter where the ball was, it could have been 10 feet up the pole, or maybe even 40 up the pole,” he joked.
Today, the Landmark crew communicates with the National Time Clock to ensure the ball is dropped on the exact second the New Year begins.
Despite the stress that comes with the job, the 68-year-old Calvano plans to continue his work for many years to come.
“I’m very stressed on New Year’s Eve; I’m nervous; I’m upset,” he said. “But it is exciting.”
“I’ve been in this industry for a long time, but I still enjoy getting up every morning to go to work, seeing my signs on TV and out in the streets.”
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