How to Dump 3,000 Pounds of Confetti on Times Square

By Spenser Mestel

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In Times Square, a team of trained volunteers starts the confetti dispersal process from eight different buildings, 20 seconds before the start of the New Year.CreditCreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

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More than a million revelers are expected to celebrate New Year’s in Times Square. They’ll start gathering in the early afternoon, the hard-core among them wearing diapers so as not to lose their spots. No matter where they stand, however, they are certain to be covered in some of the 3,000 pounds of confetti that will be released 20 seconds before midnight.

The confetti drop started in 1992, when it was intended to lighten up the tone of the event. “Up until that point, it had just been a drunken brawl,” said Treb Heining, who managed the confetti that first year and has been doing it ever since. “It was so seedy.”

The confetti was an instant success. “We literally saw it transform the whole Times Square area before our eyes,” Mr. Heining said, “which is what they wanted — to clean the place up.”

Of course, now there’s a different kind of cleanup involved.

Mr. Heining, who works primarily in balloons (his company designs and markets balloons for Disney theme parks) expects this Times Square celebration, his 26th, to go seamlessly. This is because of a process that begins almost a year in advance.

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On Dec. 29, the festive papers are transported to Times Square in unmarked, 45-pound boxes.CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times

January 1 Applications go out for next year’s Confetti Crew. (Mr. Heining calls the volunteers “dispersal engineers.”) Though he says that 50 people would be enough, he enlists twice that number in order to give more people the opportunity. Each year, roughly half the volunteers are returnees.

July Mr. Heining typically has enough entries, but he continues the selection process through the summer. Though he says there isn’t a specific type of person he’s looking for, “there’s got to be some dedication because we’re not messing around up there.”

October The Confetti Crew list is finalized by Oct. 1. Mr. Heining, who lives in California, travels to New York City to meet with the Times Square Alliance and to visit the eight participating buildings.

November 30 The “Wishing Wall” is installed in Times Square, allowing visitors to write New Year’s wishes directly on the confetti that will be dispersed (not “thrown”). Those who are unable to visit the Wall can submit their entries via Twitter or Instagram (#ConfettiWish).

Early December Mr. Heining finalizes the logistics, including buying insurance for the event and hiring elevator operators for the buildings that need them.

The confetti drop started in 1992, when it was intended to lighten up the tone of the event. “Up until that point, it had just been a drunken brawl,” said the man who organizes the effort every year.CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

December 29 The Confetti Crew, after gathering for breakfast, unloads two truckloads of confetti in Times Square, about 3,000 pounds total. Then, through the bustling streets, they deliver the unmarked, 45-pound boxes to the participating buildings. “The crowd has no idea who we are or what we’re doing,” said Mr. Heining. The pieces are also bigger than you’d expect: roughly two inches by two inches and in “an incredible array of shapes.”

December 30 Following instructions from the Police Department, the Sanitation Department removes the 160 garbage cans around Times Square and replaces them with 200 cardboard boxes. Throughout New Year’s Eve and until the area is clean (usually around noon on New Year’s Day), the department is responsible for 57 square blocks surrounding Times Square.

New Year’s Eve, 7 p.m. The crew meets for an hourlong orientation, where they learn the correct technique for dispersing the confetti, which Mr. Heining says you have to see to fully appreciate. However, if the dispersal engineers do it correctly, he said their arms should be sore by the end of the night: “It’s a very violent act.”

New Year’s Eve, 8:30 p.m. Now stationed at the top of their designated buildings, the dispersal engineers fluff their confetti, take pictures from the roof, and play board games as they await the moment of truth. Drinking is prohibited.

New Year’s Eve, 9 p.m. Mr. Heining makes his first radio check. In 1992, no one had cellphones, so he had to rely exclusively on his Mickey Mouse watch. Now, coordinating the timing is a bit easier.

The confetti is made from recycled material that would otherwise be discarded, and all of it is biodegradable.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

New Year’s Eve 11 p.m. More than 100 sanitation workers begin their eight-hour shifts. Using street sweepers, backpack blowers, and push brooms, they will remove the 57 tons of material that’s left behind, none of which is recycled. The confetti thrown at midnight is made from recycled material that would otherwise be discarded, and all of it is biodegradable.

New Year’s Eve, 11:30 p.m. Mr. Heining hits peak nerves and starts pacing. This is when he starts to consider anything he’s forgotten, which he reports has never happened, except for the year he didn’t call his mother in California to wish her a happy early New Year’s. The final half-hour, he says, “seems like it goes by in 10 minutes.”

New Year’s Eve, 11:59:40 Twenty seconds before midnight, Mr. Heining gives the order, and the confetti starts to fly. “There’s something inherently naughty about it in our childhood minds,” he says about the dispersal. “You’re throwing all this stuff out, and it’s O.K.”

New Year’s Day, 12 a.m. The ball finishes dropping as 3,000 pounds of confetti descend on Times Square. “There’s no real photographs or video or anything that can do it justice when you see it with the naked eye,” Mr. Heining says. “I still get goose bumps.”

New Year’s Day, 12:30 a.m. The confetti is still swirling. The heat from the crowd initially pushes the confetti up, higher than the buildings, which is why you’ll see it “anywhere you walk on the island the next day.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page MB5 of the New York edition with the headline: Dumping 3,000 Pounds of Confetti Doesn’t Just Happen. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe