NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tight security was in place for the 85th Annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

The ceremony got underway at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the tree was lit up just before 9 p.m.

“Everyone seems so joyous and happy and together, it’s so nice,” Rhinebeck resident Concetta Ferrari told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

Ferrari and her kids were some of thousands of people crowded the sidewalks near 30 Rock to witness the extravaganza.

“We’re going to have six entry points coming in, at each one of the entry points you’re going to have a magnetometer there so people will be wanded similar to coming in to Times Square,” said NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan early Wednesday. “We’ve dropped off concrete block surrounding the entire avenue on 5th and 6th, that wasn’t out there last year so we’ve increased that sort of security.”

“We’re going to have our sniper teams out, we’re going to have our dogs, the same counter-terrorism overlay that we had for Thanksgiving will be out there again tonight,” Monahan added.

The 75-foot tall Norway Spruce from State College, Pennsylvania is illuminated by more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights.


Spectators took notice of the NYPD out in force.

“A huge police presence, a lot of dogs, officers, you couldn’t feel more safe,” one visitor said.

“I’ve never felt safer I don’t think,” another said.

The concrete barriers were put out at the event for the first time ever, just weeks after a man in a pickup truck went speeding down a bike path in Lower Manhattan killing eight people.

It’s a tragedy that some visitors admitted was on their minds.

“It was a concern coming this time of year because, especially coming from the UK, we’ve had a lot of attacks in recent months,” UK resident Jules Lea said.

At the end of the day, they put their trust in the city’s security to celebrate the start of the season in such a special way.

“We’re going to live our lives and enjoy our country and New York is the heart and soul of the country,” Chicagoan Diana Ault said.

Drivers were advised to avoid the area from 3 p.m. to midnight.


The following streets are subject to closure: 48th, 49th, 50th, and 51st Streets between Avenue of the Americas and Madison Avenue, 47th Street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, and 52nd Street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue.

Starting Thursday, 49th and 50th streets between 5th and Avenue of the Americas will be closed to vehicle traffic on weekdays from 5 p.m. until midnight and on weekends from 1 p.m. until midnight through Jan. 2.