Goshen retiree recalls hoisting the ball at Times Square

Glitterati and neon: Nelson Valle was for decades one of six strong men to manage the all-important drop

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  • Nelson Valle with his prized Fracarossi painting of Times Square, which hangs in a prominent place in his Goshen home (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Nelson Valle was honored for his many decades of electrical service to one of the most brightly illiuminated places on earth (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • George Pena and his sons, James and Joseph, with last year''s lighted sulky in Goshen. (Photo by Geri Corey)

Goshen Sulky to ride at midnight

Of course, Goshen has its own drop, a colorful and brightly lit sulky that pays homage to the town's importance in the history of standardbred racing.
Illuminate Goshen is hosting the event at Harriman Square, in the Village of Goshen. From 7 to 9 p.m., is a family-friendly party on the stage and in heated tents, with arts and crafts, a magic show, face painting, balloon animals, science experiments, music, and other fun activities.
At 9 p.m. is an "Early to Bed" ball rise so families can "count down" and still be home in time for bed. From 9 p.m. to midnight there will be live music from the Hype and DJ Rich, food vendors on site, and a "selfie scavenger hunt" (participants will be given a list of places/people/things they must find and take a selfie with).

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Reading in The Chronicle about the New Year's ball drop in Goshen brought to Nelson Valle's mind the many years he spent working on (insert apologies to his hometown here) the "real ball drop" in Times Square.

In the early days, the Times Square ball drop took six strong men, one stout rope, and perfect timing to execute. Valle was one of those strong men, starting at age 16, when he was really just a boy. Still, he had the wherewithal to hoist the heavy ball up the flagpole atop the Times Square Building, where it would stand ready for the drop at midnight. The six men then, through tight control of the rope, executed the drop. They practiced and timed themselves for accuracy.

The ball was five feet in diameter and made of various materials over the years, Valle said. It was composed of two semi-spheres screwed together and covered with 100 light bulbs. The early ball was made of iron and wood and weighed hundreds of pounds. As it was remade, it became lighter and lighter.

Valle was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States when he was four. He spent 46 years as an electrical worker on Broadway and Times Square, retiring with a stack of memories. Colorful neon signs and brilliant electric lights defined his Times Square years, and provided the backdrop for the many actors he'd see filming there. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward seemed to him the ultimate couple, he said. Valle remembers an actual Capital Airlines plane decorating the roof across the way from the Times Square roof.

A Joseph Fracarossi painting of Times Square hangs in a prominent place in Valle's Goshen home, seen the moment you enter. Fracarossi, born in 1886 in Trieste, Austria, was a self-taught photo realist and painted city scenes.

Valle recalled the scene when, at the stroke of midnight, the ball finally hit the roof. The celebration below would break out, with fireworks and kisses galore.

And after the drop each year, the two semi-spheres would be placed in a large closet. There they'd out the calendar year, for its turn to shine to come around once more.

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