NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than 24 hours of 2013 remained in the future late Monday, but exuberant crowds were already assembling for the ball drop in Times Square.

As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, thousands were out to beat the crush of the crowd of New Year’s Eve by arriving a day early.

“We came out here just to pretend like it’s tomorrow night,” said Kevin Zaffaroni of Little Rock, Ark.

“We took a ton of pictures and we’re going to post them around 11 o’clock tomorrow night and make it seem like we were here. And we’ll actually be on the couch,” said Steve Meriweather of Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s great, you can’t beat it.”

The crowds watched as the lights were tested and cameras were locked into place.

Linda Schaffer grew up on New York, but had never visited Times Square around the New Year. She decided a day early was just as fun.

“It’s just the energy; the buzz,” said Schaffer, of Wayne, N.J. “It’s just great everyone’s happy and looking forward to a new year.”

Some will be getting close to the legendary ball of lights that will drop at midnight. Brandon Castro of the Fordham section of the Bronx said he has never come to Times Square for New Year’s, but will be doing so on Tuesday night.

This year’s ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered by more than 2,500 Waterford crystals.

Organizers tested the ball earlier Monday while volunteers began inflating hundreds of blue and white balloons that will be distributed Tuesday night.

Nearly 800 people have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on the big event, which is expected to be watched by more than a million people in Times Square and over a billion worldwide.

“The Times Square ball is a universal symbol of celebration and the whole world counts down with New York City,” Jeff Strauss, executive producer of Times Square New Year’s Eve, told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

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Police will also be on high alert while tens of thousands crowd into Times Square. Barricades were already in place Monday night, and traffic will not be allowed anywhere near Times Square.

“There is a lot of activity going on. I can assure you, they will all be adequately policed,” police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Saturday. “We had extensive planning sessions and briefings on it. I’m confident it will go well.”

This year, a new version of the free Times Square New Year’s Eve app will show the broadcast of the celebration and let users customize to time zones.

Organizers inflate balloons for New Year's Eve celebration Dec. 30, 2013 (Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Volunteers inflate balloons for New Year’s Eve celebration Dec. 30, 2013 (Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

The organizers of the annual celebration announced Sunday that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the New Year’s Eve ball.

The tradition of the ball drop dates back more than a century. Strauss said the very first celebration was a publicity stunt by the New York Times.

“To open up their headquarters they had the first Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 1904,” Strauss said. “And the first two years they had fireworks.”

But the fireworks dropped burning embers on revelers, leading the gathering’s organizers to embrace electricity in 1907 in the form of a lighted ball, he said.

Every year, the ball tells a different story. This year, Strauss was excited about the theme of the gift of imagination.

“One of the triangles is actually imagined by a young girl, a 12-year-old girl, at St. Jude’s Research Hospital,” he said. “Her design, which is a rose, and her message of hope and beauty and positiveness for the new year.”

The giant New Year’s Eve ball is also lit from within by more than 32,000 lights.

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