Cheyenne officials expect about 10,000 people to watch this year’s New Year’s Eve ball drop in the city’s downtown Depot Plaza, and they’ll be treated to a higher drop than last year’s inaugural event.
The crane holding the ball, which was erected on Friday, stands 16.5 stories over the party area.
The drop will mark the culmination of several parties in the depot and downtown area.
“It will be the highest thing in Cheyenne,” said Cheyenne architect Glen Garrett, who designed the ball. “It will be awesome.”
Last year’s event drew about 4,500 people, according to local officials.
“We’ve increased external marketing ... and billboards with a ball drop message,” said Darrell Rudloff, executive director of the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau. He was involved in the project from the beginning.
The area of the crane and ball drop area is surrounded by fencing and barriers to keep people from getting too close. At midnight, fireworks will explode from the roof of the Hynds Building to kick off New Year 2013.
The Depot Plaza event will include music, entertainment, a laser beam show and countdown on the face of the train depot.
Area hotels are offering special New Year’s rates and packages, and parties are scheduled for nearby buildings. The lobby of the Cheyenne Depot Museum will host a dinner and dance; the party at the Hynds Building will cater to families with young children.
“There will be a party on every corner,” Rudloff said.
Forecasts for Monday night are chilly but favorable — temperatures in the teens but calm.
“It might be pretty cold,” Garrett said. “But wind is worse than snow, as far as people willing to go out.”
Last year’s ball and crane withstood winds of 83 mph.
“It was a really crappy day,” said Garrett. “I woke up [on Dec. 31], and I was praying pretty hard.”
Garrett had calculated that the ball and crane could withstand 100 mph winds. He checked with an engineer, and by the time he left his home, he felt there would be no problems.
The crane swayed in the wind, but not the ball, festooned with 4,500 lights. By 11:30 p.m., the wind subsided.
“It was really magical. It looked like the moon rising,” Garrett said of the drop.
The event grew out of Garrett’s involvement with the nonprofit organization LightsOn!, whose mission is to create a new economic anchor in downtown Cheyenne founded in education and the arts.
The group recently reopened the historic Hynds Building across from the depot square after 25 years of vacancy.
LightsOn! members brainstormed use for the building during the holidays: a New Year’s Eve party featuring a beach ball (with a flashlight inside) launched off the Hynds’ roof or a “funky Christmas parade” featuring hot air balloons were among the options. In the end, they decided people wanted to be outside.
Add the Depot Plaza, a crane from C.H. Yarber company, and a bigger ball with thousands of lights, and The Big Drop was born.
“It has real economic potential,” Garrett said.