The midnight Dec. 31 Beach Ball Drop at Pier Park, now in only its fourth year, has been chosen as one of the Top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association (ABA).
Each year, motorcoach and tour operators of the ABA choose the top events in the U.S. and Canada for group travel from hundreds of celebrations, festivals, fairs and commemorative events.
The winners, chosen each spring for the following year, will be featured in a special supplement to Destinations Magazine, the official publication of the ABA.
The Beach Ball Drop will join other notable events such as the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.; Christmas at the Library at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.; the Vermont Quilt Festival in Essex Junction, Vt.; the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Ky.; and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.
“Just as New York City has its Times Square Crystal Ball, Panama City Beach embraces its seaside roots on New Year’s Eve with the annual Beach Ball Drop,” according to Destinations Magazine. “The night is filled with a plethora of activities, including headliner entertainment, street performers and prize drawings.”
Along with the Beach Ball Drop at Pier Park, The Seabreeze Jazz Festival, which recently moved to Panama City Beach’s Aaron Bessant Park, also was chosen as a Top 100 destination. The jazz event, which held its 13th annual festival in April, entertained a total of 20,000 fans over three days at the city-owned park next to the Pier Park shopping village.
Sponsored by Pier Park and the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC), the Beach Ball Drop after only three years has become a holiday favorite in Panama City Beach, with thousands turning out for the illuminated ball drop and midnight fireworks from both the city and county piers.
TDC Executive Director Dan Rowe said his sales manager, Ann Gager, was instrumental in nominating Panama City Beach for the ABA Top 100 list this year.
Rowe said an 800-pound illuminated beach ball will again be dropped from a 150-foot crane this year with fireworks going off from the twin 1,500-foot city and county piers.
Enhancements to the ball drop are planned this year with money from a $7 million BP marketing grant that also has helped fund concerts and other activities this fall and that also will finance a Christmas beachfront festival of lights, Rowe said.
Prize drawings are held in Pier Park throughout New Year’s Eve, such as vacations from event sponsors or maybe a surfboard from Ron Jon Surf Shop or tickets from Southwest Airlines.
The New Year’s Eve family celebration begins early, with children’s entertainment and the release of thousands of real bouncing beach balls from netting strung out along Pier Park streets. The night continues with special musical performances by top stars and the main countdown and drop of the 8-foot illuminated beach ball, Rowe said.
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