Updated 12/31/2011 10:32 PM
Crowds Jam Into Times Square For New Year's Ball Drop
Revelers are gathered in Times Square tonight to welcome the year 2012 in what organizers believe will be a record-setting crowd thanks to mild weather and a star-studded cast of entertainers. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report leading up to tonight's festivities.
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Hours before Times Square was even open to the crowd, people had already started gathering. Bundled and bursting with excitement, they sat on the sidelines awaiting the main event.
“I got on a bus from New Jersey at 6:30. I got down here because I wanted to get a spot,” said one onlooker.
NY1 invites viewers to ring in 2012 with the channel's live reports from Times Square. Just before the ball drops, NY1 will let viewers experience the sights and sounds uninterrupted. The "Countdown To 2012" special begins at 11 p.m. tonight.
Before they could stake a claim, revelers had to go through rigid security. Police have spent weeks prepping the area, removing mailboxes and securing manhole covers.
Checkpoints have been set up to keep prohibited items like alcohol and backpacks out.
"There will be magnotometers there, there will be radiation detectors, so people can feel assured when they get in here, that there has been a lot of security applied to the folks who are congregating here," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as final preparations were underway.
Organizers are expecting a crowd of record-breaking proportions thanks to relatively warm weather, and some hot performers like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
"Bieber fever here," said one reveler. "We're old but not dead yet."
Tourists from every corner of the globe are gathering for the party of the year.
"I cannot think of a better way to spend it," said one tourist. "It's always been a dream of mine. I can't believe it's a reality."
Of course, all of these visitors mean big money for the city, and not just because of what they'll drop Saturday night on glasses and noise makers. They'll stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and maybe take in a Broadway show.
"This is really a six-hour advertisement for New York City, and it helps bring people here year-round, and that's jobs and dollars for New York City,” said Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance.
Regardless of nationality or age or musical taste, it seems the revelers have one thing in common: a resolution to see the ball drop in person just once.
“49 years old, I said I've got to do the bucket list. Check it off. Let's do it,” said one visitor.
“I just needed to be here once," said another. "I told my mom, this time I'm there."
Even those who aren’t headed to Midtown for the celebration may be impacted by the heightened New Year's security. Police are closing off the area from 41st to 58th Streets between Sixth and Eighth Avenues until 3 a.m. Sunday.