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Big crowd watches ball drop, fireworks to welcome the new year

With more than 30,000 revelers expected to view all the night’s events, including the ball drop, it has been widely recognized as the largest New Year’s Eve ball drop in the state outside of Times Square in Manhattan.

Even Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police Chief George W. Gast, one of the highest law enforcement officials spotted at the ball drop, was uncertain of the exact size of the crowd. Numerous men and woman took cell phone photos of their friends during the fireworks, trading places to photograph one another.

The ball drop drew a typically massive crowd even though the day’s harsh weather caused an early closing of the ice activities that have become increasingly popular since they began at Canalside several weeks ago.

With free parking available Wednesday night at the Main Place Mall and Fernbach Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, the ball drop was part of the city’s nearly three-decade-old First Night activities downtown. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority extended Metro Rail service for the First Night operations, with the late outbound train departing downtown Buffalo at about 2 a.m. Live music with local performers began the ball drop festivities at about 10:30 p.m.