Gridlock Alert: Avoid Vicinity Of Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – With a flick of the switch, a 76-foot Norway Spruce officially became the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree Wednesday night after it was illuminated for the first time this holiday season in a ceremony that’s been held since 1933.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned on the lights just before 9 p.m., setting off a dazzling 45,000 multi-colored LED lights and a 9 1/2-foot-wide Swarovski star that topped the 12-ton tree.

Terri Morgenstern, of Alberta, Canada, waited hours and wasn’t disappointed.

“Actually, I didn’t expect it to be this gorgeous,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “It’s even better in person.”

“I just can’t believe all the colors,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones. “I wasn’t expecting that. It’s beautiful.”

“It’s very cool,” said a man. “I never realized there were that many lights on it. It’s unbelievable. It didn’t look like it when we were looking at it when it wasn’t on.”

PHOTOS: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

The holiday event in Midtown Manhattan also was watched by millions on television. The tree will be on display until Jan. 7, after which it’ll be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

Artists such as Mary J. Blige, the Goo Goo Dolls, Jewel, Mariah Carey and Leona Lewis performed.

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The approximately 75-year-old tree made the 70-mile trip to New York City on a tractor-trailer from its home in Shelton, Conn., last month.

“I saw the tree light up,” exclaimed Melanie Blackwell, 5, of Baltimore.

“I love it,” Jainden Maisonet, 8, told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin. “The tree is beautiful.”

One woman said the lighting brought her to tears.

“Emotional. It gives you chills,” she told Jones.

“You have to see it for yourself,” a man from Ridgefield, N.J., said. “Words can’t really describe it.”

The tree was dedicated to James Lovell, 58, a married father of four and a sound and lighting expert who worked on the tree. Lovell was one of four people killed when a Metro-North commuter train derailed in the Bronx on Sunday. He was on his way to work on the tree when the accident occurred.

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