by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Old acquaintances will never be forgotten, but plenty of new ones will be made in downtown Owosso with the introduction of a New Year’s Eve Block Party that will include a ball-drop. Yet, this is not just any half-gimmicked ball that some other mid-sized town might jerry-rig together. The Owosso ball, composed of 14 quarter-inch, steel rings, has been carefully crafted by Neil Sutton of Durand. Sutton has been involved in the metal fabrication business, along with his father and brother, for a number of years. He had grown bored working in the office with CAD (computer-aided design) software at Sutton’s Machine and Fabrication on Oak Street, Durand. One of his first ventures outside the office in working with his family’s specialized machinery was to construct a shepherd’s hook for his wife’s garden. She wanted more, so he kept making them, and has now produced well over 200 shepherd’s hooks that he has sold at craft shows and local farm markets. From the shepherd’s hooks, he has also gone on to explore making garden statues and steel art.
“I now realize that I can make just about anything that anyone would like to have made,” Sutton shared. “It’s about figuring out what will look good. Like with the Owosso ball, it was figuring out what numbers would look good. Basic geometry. It’s a spherical shape with a rotated pattern of rings.” The ball is six and a half feet in diameter, and took Sutton three solid days to create, once everything had been planned out.
After Sutton’s portion of the creative effort was complete, the ball was moved to the Owosso Fire Department on Water Street, for Carl Ludington, of Ludington Electric Inc., to “electrify” with brilliant lights. Carl and Sue Ludington donated the remote-controlled, multi-colored LED light expenditure to the city. Approximately 8,000 LED diodes were secured to the ball in a zip-tying/lighting party involving a small team of volunteers. Ludington has contributed over 30-hours to the project. “It has been a fun item to work on. I’m hoping everything works properly. First year worries, and all,” he said.
From the fire department, the ball will be moved to the downtown NYE location, where it will be powered from an Owosso fire-truck. It will be a three-person job, with a firefighter and a volunteer in the fire-truck bucket, and another volunteer working the remote.
The Owosso Ball-Drop is a free, family-oriented event with a large number of supporting Owosso merchants involved. It has been collaboratively organized through Owosso DDA/Main Street.
To view the first ball-drop event in Owosso, and see the magic behind Neil Sutton and Carl Ludington’s work, visit the corner of Washington Street and Jerome Avenue on Sunday evening, Dec. 31, and then stay around after midnight for fireworks, sponsored by the Shiawassee County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“This event has just taken wings, partially because it is like nothing we have ever done,” shared Tracey Peltier, Owosso DDA/Main Street program assistant. Peltier stated that the ball has been given the nickname of “Lucille,” and plans are underway for the sculptural piece to be used annually and also in the Owosso Glow Parade.
To make the festivities more comfortable, a number of warming stations will be located in the New Year’s Eve event area. Downtown parking is free, and a number of downtown restaurants will be providing entertainment and food options. Jumbo’s Burger Bar will be sponsoring a safe-ride-home service, free of charge. The festivities on S. Washington Street, between Comstock and Jerome Ave., will last until around 1 a.m.