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Ball drop to feature plenty of 'eye candy'

The ball of lights is being fine-tuned. The Jumbotrons are standing by. The crane has been rented to hoist the car 140 feet up.

Eye candy will be everywhere at this year's ball drop on New Year's Eve, an ever-evolving event that usually eclipses the prior year's spectacle.

This year, two Jumbotrons flanking the Electric Tower building in Roosevelt Square will flash a retrospective of the local and national events that shaped 2006.

The fireworks that rocket off at midnight will dance to booming classic rock.

And in a salute to the automobile, Ford will use a crane to lower one of its new Edge cars -- which has its panels stamped at the Woodlawn plant -- along with the ball of lights.

Side by side, they will fall at midnight.

Buffalo's ball drop, which is in its 19th year, attracts an estimated 40,000 people and has become the nation's second-largest -- behind New York City's maelstrom, of course.

"The ball drop is a special, symbolic event that contributes to the overall quality of life in Western New York," said Dr. Michael Cropp, president and CEO of Independent Health, which is presenting First Night Buffalo at the Convention Center as a precursor to the ball drop.

The ball-drop gathering begins at 11 p.m. in front of the Electric Tower. The tower's system of colored lights has been repaired, and they again flickered to life last weekend.

For true ball-drop lovers, here are some facts to wow your friends:

The ball is 4 feet wide, made of Plexiglas and has more than 1,000 clear light bulbs controlled by computer technology. It was produced by WGRZ-FM (97 Rock).

The Electric Tower, now owned by Iskalo Development, was erected in 1912 and modeled after the Electric Building at Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition in 1901.

The Ford Edge weighs more than 4,000 pounds and will be strapped and raised with a crane operated by Clark Rigging Co. Lifting such a vehicle requires a 150-ton crane.

The fireworks will pop off for about 12 minutes and are provided by restaurateur Russell Salvatore. There are several "detonation" sites, five on the tower and one off-site spot from which aerial fireworks will be launched.

The Jumbotrons are provided by Time Warner Cable and MTV and will carry MTV in high definition.


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