NEW YORK – The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was set aglow with 30,000 colored lights at a ceremony featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg, singer Lionel Richie and NBC's "30 Rock" stars Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey.
With temperatures in the high 50s, thousands of people packed the midtown Manhattan plaza for the festivities on Wednesday night, which were hosted by the "Today" show.
Singers Martina McBride, John Legend, Christina Aguilera, Sting and Bette Midler were among those who performed during the two-hour event, "Christmas in Rockefeller Center," part of which was televised nationally on NBC.
Christmas tree admirers came from as far away as Florida, California, Germany and Norway.
"It's just beautiful," Mary Shott said about the 88-foot Norway spruce from Ridgefield, Connecticut, about 60 miles north of New York.
She and her 18-year-old daughter, Sarah Shott, traveled from Tresckow, Pennsylvania, by bus to watch the ceremony for the first time.
The 9-ton tree, which came from the property of Rob Kinnaird, is topped with a Swarovski crystal star. The tree will remain in place until Jan. 8.
Last year, children displaced by Hurricane Katrina joined the mayor to light the tree, which came from the property of a Wayne, New Jersey, family.
Formal tree lighting ceremonies have been held at the Art Deco plaza since 1933, but the first Rockefeller Christmas tree was put up two years earlier by workers helping to build the complex.
Meanwhile, 75 miles east in Flanders, New York, a decidedly smaller crowd gathered Wednesday and sang carols before the lighting of the Big Duck, a giant white duck built in 1931 by a Long Island farmer who wanted to sell ducks and fresh eggs by the side of the road. The store is now used to sell tourist memorabilia.
The duck is 20 feet tall and stretches 30 feet from beak to tail. It was adorned with a huge wreath around its neck and festive holiday garland and lights surrounding its base.
Santa Claus showed up on a fire truck and flipped a switch to light it.