NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Precautions were in place and the crowd was about a quarter of its normal size for this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square as COVID cases continue to surge.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, the crowd was there for hours, but the weather was dry and not too cold, and they actually had room to spread out. That’s because only about one-fourth of the typical number of people were allowed inside.

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The celebration may have been scaled down, but the crowd was as excited as ever.

“I’ve never been to New York, and I wanted to see all this,” North Carolina resident Andy Gorzi said.

“My favorite part tonight is being with all these lovely people,” said Sarah Ali, from England.

The party kicked off with that iconic Waterford crystal ball ascending over the crowd.

People danced the night away to performers, including Ja Rule, Ashanti and KT Tunstall.

“Just soak up every single second, and I think, you know, we’ve all just worked out that life is precious. We’ve had a reminder. So soak up every second. Even the hard stuff, as the contrast for when you have the good stuff. So be in the moment,” Tunstall said.

For many, ringing in the new year in Times Square was a bucket list item they could not wait to cross off.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a kid,” New Jersey resident Megan Gillen said.

“We saw it on TV every year. It’s like a, really like a dream,” said Maria Gany, from France.

“We’re super, super excited. We’ve been waiting for this, like, since January honestly,” said Shainez Denfer, from France.

She and her sisters arrived around noon to get prime spots for the show. She said to pass time, they were playing games, “gossiping and listening to music, mostly.”

“We’ve never been here before, and it was, like, a thing to do in our lives, you know, to come to New York and do New Year’s Eve with the music, the lights, screens and everything, so it’s a dream come true,” Denfer said.

Another group of friends came all the way from Colombia to join the party and ring in 2022.

“Since you are a kid, you can see this kind of shows on the TV, so you’re really excited because you’re like, OK, I want to be there some day, and now we’re living the experience,” Maria Fernanda said.

Jeff and Christina Sims came from Texas to celebrate their 20th anniversary at the Crossroads of the World.

“We hit three Broadway shows in the last two days, so big trip,” Christina Sims said.

To allow for social distancing this year, about 15,000 revelers filled the pens instead of the usual 60,000.

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“But it’s viewed by over a billion people around the globe, so having that tradition maintained felt really important to do, obviously to do that safely and responsibly,” said TJ Whitman, vice president of communications for the Times Square Alliance.

But “scaled back” for New York City standards is still pretty impressive.

“It still feels like a lot to us,” said Logan Christiansen, from Nebraska.

Everyone over the age of 5 had to show proof of full vaccination before entry and had to keep their masks on for the night.

“It’s been very organized, and that’s what I like the most. Everybody’s checking to make sure that you’re vaccinated and that everyone’s safe, so it’s been really, really good,” said Jazmine Harrison, from Delaware.

Many revelers would not wait to wave the year goodbye.

“Absolutely, good riddance. We want to see the end of it,” Ali said.

“I cannot wait to move forward,” McKenzie Lillard, from Colorado, said.

So what are the New Year’s hopes and resolutions? Many are just hoping this new year is a happy and healthy one.

“Less COVID,” Gany said.

“Study more. Trying to get a degree,” Christiansen said.

“I just want everyone to be happy,” said Paul Arthur, from France.

“We would like to see what the new year has prepared for us. New vibes, new people, new cultures,” Fernanda said.

“Hoping we’re gonna get through this COVID thing a little bit faster than we expected,” Denfer said.

“It was kind of a crazy year, so hopefully next year will be better,” Florida resident Sherisa Stackhouse said.

“I’m hoping people can learn to live nicely with each other and get along in spite of our differences,” Jeff Sims said.

New York’s New Year’s Eve celebration is over 100 years old. The first ball descended over Times Square in 1907.

In 2020, spectators were not allowed in Times Square, which some people said made them even more appreciative to be there to welcome 2022.

MORE NEWS: Surging COVID Cases Push New Yorkers To Change New Year's Eve Party Plans

Editor’s note: This story was first published Dec. 31.

Ali Bauman