Nine years of the NYE Beach Ball Drop

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The New Year's Eve Beach Ball drop in Pier Park has turned into quite a tradition for Panama City Beach. This year will be the 9th annual celebration.

For almost a decade, thousands of people gather in Pier Park to ring in the new year with the Beach Ball Drop.

"Every year it's grown you know more and more folks are coming out to it," Tourist Development Council President Dan Rowe said. "People from out of town are coming to make this a holiday tradition."

The first beach ball dropped at midnight 2009 as a crowd of 7,500 said goodbye to 2008.

"People of Bay County came out to it, of all ages, I mean I have not seen so many little ones out at midnight, ever," said Rowe. "And that night we decided we need to do something special for the kids."

So the second year they added the inflated beach ball drop.

"We get a huge turnout on New Year's Eve for the Beach Ball Drop and New Year's Eve historically is a very adult-centric celebration," Pier Park Director of Marketing and Business Development Michael Kerrigan said. "We like to think the Beach Ball Drop is the most family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration around. Which is something we take a lot of pride in."

This year the beach ball got a little fancier with the arrival of a permanent LED beach ball a-top the brand new celebration tower.

Officials say if you plan to attend the Beach Ball Drop this year, be sure to get there early to allow plenty of time to park. If you can't attend, you can always watch the live coverage here on NewsChannel 7 beginning at approximately 11:05 p.m.