NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A crowd amassed once again in Times Square — with many arriving hours ahead of time — to watch the ball drop and ring in 2017.
The celebration came as a major terror attack struck a New Year’s celebration overseas. Early Sunday morning local time, a gunman believed to have been dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul and killed at least 35 people.
Police emphasized there were no credible threats targeting New York and Times Square, and revelers with their balloons and high spirits were not deterred.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, throngs arrived several hours ahead of time for the massive and legendary festivities in Times Square. When night fell, the crowd watched as workers raised and lit the Waterford crystal ball high above One Times Square — to the accompaniment of “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
The crowd was later treated to performances by Gloria Estefan and Joe Jonas’ band DNCE, among others. Many revelers said there was nowhere else they would want to be.
“(I said), ‘I’m going to New York to watch the ball drop, yeah,’ and I’m here!” said Theresa Abraham of Arlington, Virginia.
After a very long wait, many revelers said it was worth it.
“Probably not again, but like it’s a bucket list item,” said Ammon Orgill of Sn Francisco. “You have to do it once. It’s so fun. The energy here is like out of control. You’re just like with tons of other crazy people – it’s totally worth it!”
Some revelers got in before noon – and even before dawn – to see the festivities.
Meghan and Madison are in town from Atlanta with friends. Last year, they arrived too late to get in, so this year, they got to the party nice and early — at 6 a.m.
“Last year I was late. I got here at 7 p.m. so I missed it all,” Meghan said.
Christian Pacheco, also visiting from Atlanta, said he was willing to stand in place for 13 hours.
“It’ll be worth it,” he said.
Stacie Brooks of New Orleans also decided to stand and wait for more than 12 hours.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to do this for years, so I’m so excited. I’m happy to be here.”
Marcus and Aaron, visiting from Toronto, decided to sleep in a little. They got to Times Square around 6:30 this morning.
“We’ve lined up before in the past, not for this, but for like a video game or something,” Marcus said.
Some of the bands were doing sound checks Saturday afternoon, but that did not stop one man from taking a quick nap. And everyone was bundled up.
“A couple of pairs of socks, long johns, gloves, layers — and that’s all you need,” said Ashleigh Rogers of Manchester, England.
Some local businesses are cashing in on the increased foot traffic. WCBS 880’s Myles Miller reports that a nearby Domino’s has 150 pizzas hot and ready to go — for a whopping $25.
By the time the ball drops at midnight, Brandon and Michael from Tennessee will have been at Times Square for over 19 hours.
“We drove 15 hours to get here, we stayed here an entire week just for this one day so we have to make the most out of it and enjoy every second,” Brandon told 1010 WINS’s Roger Stern.
“That’s why I don’t drink too many fluids and get plenty a good night’s sleep,” he said.
The Atlanta contingent has a different approach to nature’s call.
“We’re not drinking any water,” Meghan said, “and we’re wearing adult diapers.”
The diapers, they say, will only be used as a last resort.
But late Saturday night, one reveler was stuck with a full bladder.
“I’ve got to pee so bad!” she said. She said she had been there “since 9 o’clock this morning in the same spot continuously!”
Meanwhile, security was extra tight this year — with 7,000 police officers on hand, vapor-sniffing dogs, and everyone is searched on the way in.
For the first time, 65 huge sanitation trucks full of sand were set up to block key intersections to prevent a terrorist truck attack – in the wake of the attacks this year in Nice, France and Berlin, Germany.
But all that didn’t keep as many as 2 million people away.
“I’m comfortable with it,” said Stephanie Leverett of Chesapeake, Virginia. “It makes me feel good – you know, especially with the events that happened overseas.”
“So far, everything seems safe,” Brooks added. “I’m having the time of my life!”
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told CBS2’s Conybeare that his department is well-prepared.
“We’re absolutely ready for it. We’ve been preparing for this since January 2 of 2016. This is an event that we do well. We’re well-versed in this. We have a lot of large events in New York City every year, and this is one of the biggest along with Thanksgiving and Fourth of July,” O’Neill said.
Chief of Department Carlos Gomez explained the tight security this year – including the sanitation trucks full of sand and much more.
“We have thousands of officers here in Times Square, as well as in other venues throughout the city. As you see, you walk nearby, you’ll see an officer within 10 or 15 feet. We have several ways of screening – you get screened before you enter Times Square, and before you enter the pen, you will be screened,” Gomez said.
O’Neill noted that his own family was coming to Times Square Saturday night.
“I’m bringing some of my nieces and nephews down to Times Square tonight. My two sons are busy – they’re doing other things – but I look forward to it,” he said. “And if you’re coming down here, just know that the NYPD is going to do what they get paid to do, and that’s to keep the people of this city safe.”
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