Looking back, Linda Mays is able to laugh at the catastrophic ball-drop failure of 2017. But this year, it’s going to be different.
Each year, the pinnacle of Aggieville’s New Year’s Eve celebration is the ball dropping from the roof of Rally House in front of thousands of visitors. But last year, three months into her new position as executive director of the Aggieville Business Association, Mays had to deal with the ball’s malfunction at the last possible moment.
“It’s our 15th year, and for the anniversary we’re going to have a new ball this year,” Mays said. “Completely donated by JS Sign and Awning — they designed it, made it, manufactured it and are installing it. And they’re going to be there the night of to make sure it drops.”
About 6,000 people filled the streets of Aggieville last year. They hung out at the street stage, or went inside the various bars and restaurants for warmth and to keep drinking before the new year.
There’s no entry fee for visitors. Mays said it’s a way for the city to come together to welcome the new year.
“We have several events going on in the area the day of,” she said. “We have ice skating open, and we’ll actually have something new in Aggieville — a window competition where we’re encouraging people to come down and check out the businesses and vote. And that night, we’ll have a live band that will play.”
Mays said they’re working with a general from Fort Riley to be the honorary ball-dropper at this year’s event, as part of Manhattan’s focus to make the Flint Hills a more cohesive environment.
Philosophy of Lions, a local Manhattan band that has performed since 2009, will be the entertainment. Its Facebook bio describes the band as a fusion new-Americana band, “featuring catchy rhythms, thoughtful lyrics and dynamics that range from a purr to a full on roar. A solid drum, bass, guitar foundation interplays with saxophone stylings.”
“We try to go for a really upbeat, funky band who are going to get people excited,” Mays said. “Not necessarily a cover band where they will always be playing someone else’s songs, because we want some originality to the band, but we want someone people know and they can sing along with and can be really happy for the night.”
The band will play from 10:30 p.m. until midnight on a custom stage in front of Rally House. Legally, guests will have to forgo their beverages inside if they choose to leave the bars, as alcohol of any kind isn’t permitted in the street. The traditional Aggieville celebration began with the Levin family, the owners of Varney’s — a textbook and office supply store — who wanted to put on a meaningful community event, and did so primarily at their own expense, Mays recalled. Once they stepped down, the Aggieville Business Association took over the annual celebration.
Mays said the New Year’s event does unite an already tight-knit community, but it was no more apparent than what she experienced last year.
“I just couldn’t believe these people who climbed onto the roof with me and were spending their New Year’s Eve trying to fix the ball,” Mays recalled. “So for me, the most amazing part of the evening is the community coming together. And even though the ball didn’t drop — everyone had a fantastic time.”
For updates on this year’s celebration, visit the Little Apple New Year’s Eve Facebook event page.