Will ball drop be an old acquaintance?

Funding woes imperil New Year’s Eve event

By The Mercury

It’s hard to imagine the Little Apple New Year’s Eve, complete with the apple drop from Varney’s Book Store, happening anywhere except Aggieville.

It’s harder though, to imagine this event, which began in 2003 and annually draws thousands of people to Aggieville, not happening at all. The Little Apple ball drop might not compete with the Big Apple’s in the size of the crowd it attracts, but the population density at Manhattan Avenue and Moro Street late New Year’s Eve rivals that of Time Square.

So delightful is this event that it hasn’t just been featured on statewide television, it also has attracted network coverage on one of the biggest nights of the year.

That gives the city the sort of publicity that money can’t buy.

Yet the lack of money might just doom the festivities. That possibility exists because the event, which has been largely subsidized by Varney’s, has become more of a financial burden than the bookstore should be asked to handle. As Steve Levin, Varney’s general manager, told the Mercury last week, the store doesn’t earn as much revenue as it did when Varney’s operated Kansas State University’s bookstore and before the KSU athletic department shifted its business from Varney’s to the K-State bookstore.

As the store’s revenue stream subsequently declines, Mr. Levin said, “the extracurricular activities we do have to slow down.”

Among Varney’s extracurricular activities associated solely with New Year’s Eve have been investments of $20,000 to $25,000 — lasers, fireworks and entertainment cost money — as well as countless hours that staff invested organizing the event and seeking other sponsors.

One possibility he mentioned involves moving the festivities downtown. Mr. Levin said some downtown business owners had expressed interest in the Little Apple ball drop, perhaps holding it in Blue Earth Plaza in the south downtown redevelopment. That plaza last Christmas season boasted a 50-foot-tall artificial tree whose lights flashed in sync with carols broadcast from loudspeakers.

Although the ball drop seems a perfect fit for Aggieville, having it downtown could work. Certainly that would be preferable to allowing it to simply fade away. In view of the positive attention the Little Apple New Year’s Eve brings to the city, perhaps the Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as other local businesses — particularly those who would benefit directly from New Year’s Eve revelers — could chip in.

Let’s take good care of this festive and uniquely Manhattan annual event.

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