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Ludington ready for 8th annual Ball Drop

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For the eighth year, downtown Ludington will be welcoming the New Year with a party at the corner of James Street and Ludington Avenue - thousands are expected to be there watching the ball drop.

And even though this is just the 8th year, it has quickly become one of downtown Ludington’s signature events.

Later this week, the 900 pound, 6,000 LED Pure Ludington ball will leave the safety of the Ludington Fire Department garage and find its way to the corner of James Street and Ludington Avenue.

“It started out as an event for the locals,” says Jennifer Tooman with Downtown Ludington, “to give something back to the community, give them something to do New Year’s Eve. And it’s just grown into this huge party, which is awesome.”

The first year of the ball drop drew maybe 5,000 people.

Within a few years, 12 to 15 thousand people were coming to Ludington to celebrate.

And not just celebrate when the ball drops, but all day.

Sandcastles Children’s Museum hosts a party from 5 until 8 complete with a balloon drop at 7:30.

“And the parents can still go out later,” says Cathy Dalton, Manager at Sandcastles. “That’s what we always promote: Come here early, have your fun with your family, your little ones. They have a great time every year.”

The event is a big deal for businesses - especially restaurants in town and has caught the attention of people thinking of bringing their business to Ludington.

“I’ve heard some of the retailers say their sales on this evening are comparable to Fourth of July,” says Tooman. “So that’s huge for those in the tourist industry.”

“Part of my decision to invest in Ludington is all the activities,” says Brad Butterfield who is opening his new Timber Bar and Grill this week. “There’s literally something going on every week in bringing a different crowd just about every weekend. From a business owner perspective, that’s just a wonderful thing.”

Even with all the people, the light show, the fireworks, the parties, the night still has the feeling of a small town celebration.

“And that’s the goal with all of our events is to leave that Ludington community feel with those who attend,” says Tooman. “Our goal isn’t really to blow it, were not trying to compete with New York and Times Square.”

Most of downtown participates in some way New Year’s Eve some stores will be staying open late, several restaurants likewise will be open late and offer special menus.

And with a similar event in Grand Rapids cancelled this year, Ludington may attract even more people looking to put 2016 behind them.

Ideas are already being kicked around for how to make the tenth annual Ludington Ball Drop even better, but we’ll have to wait until the end of 2018 to find out.

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