Ringing in the New Year: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

It’s that time again! Time to turn the page to start a new chapter! Time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the New Year!

There are lots of long-standing traditions for New Year’s Day. Some people are dedicated to eating their black-eyed peas and hog jowl. Some tune in to watch the Rose Bowl Parade. Others settle in for a day of bowl games.

Ringing in the New Year is probably an even greater tradition.

International cities like Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and London put on a grand show for New Year’s. Here in the United States, you can ring in the New Year in Las Vegas, Orlando and Gatlinburg. In Orlando, Disney, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando theme parks have simultaneous fireworks shows. In Gatlinburg, they’ve been shooting fireworks and dropping a lighted ball from their Space Needle for 27 years.

But the big party is in New York City. Thousands descend on Times Square to watch the crystal ball drop. Millions more tune in to ABC to watch it on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

Even partygoers stop what they are doing and stand around the television to count down to midnight and watch the ball drop.

But Dick Clark has not always been the host to our New Year’s Eve festivities. The “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” party actually started in 1973 on NBC as an attempt by Dick Clark to create a show that might appeal to younger viewers and challenge an even older New Year’s Eve tradition—Guy Lombardo.

Guy Lombardo began doing “big band remotes” on New Year’s Eve for radio in 1928. He and his Royal Canadians orchestra performed at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959 and then at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel ballroom in NYC until 1976. The show moved to television in 1956 and was a fixture on CBS for the next twenty years. At midnight, the show would go live to Times Square for the ball drop. Guy Lombardo was “Mr. New Year’s Eve.”

“New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” gained popularity and moved to ABC after a couple of years. When Lombardo passed away in 1977, Dick Clark became our New Year’s Eve master of ceremonies. He hosted “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” from 1974-2004 with one exception–New Year’s Eve, 2000.

In 2000, a day-long “ABC 2000 Today” broadcast replaced the usual “Rockin Eve” show to ring in the new millennium. The program, co-hosted by Clark, Peter Jennings and Jack Ford, covered New Year’s Eve festivities around the world. Dick Clark still presided over the Times Square countdown but in 2000, the entire country saw it live rather than tape-delayed. The rest of the night was spent covering New Year’s Eve festivities in the other time zones.

Dick Clark had a stroke in early December, 2004 so Regis Philbin served as “Rockin’ Eve” guest host for 2005. Clark came back to host the 2006 show with over 20 million viewers tuning in. It was evident that the stroke had taken its toll so Ryan Seacrest became the host for the show starting in 2007.

Whatever you do to bring in the New Year, I hope you have a blessed 2016! A new chapter lies ahead!

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