NEW YORK – Hundreds of thousands of revelers were expected to flood Times Square on Sunday evening for a celebration that will attempt to wash away thoughts of world conflict with music, glitz and celebrity star power.
Those who arrive will find New York City at what may be the peak of its prosperity and appeal to tourists.
An unprecedented 3.5 tons of confetti will be dumped on the crowd during the evening. Visitors are expected to drop tens of millions of dollars on food, booze and souvenirs, capping what some are calling the city's busiest tourism year ever.
"When you think about five years ago, when we had our first New Year's Eve after 9/11, there were two questions on everyone's mind: Was there going to be another attack, and was New York going to make it?" said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which co-organizes the party.
"That's so far removed from where New York is now," he said.
Indeed. Rooms with a view of the square at Doubletree Guest Suites are going for $2,000 for this year's celebration.
Tables at Foley's Fish House, which has a panoramic view just above the crowd in the Marriott Renaissance New York Hotel, have sold out at a cost of between $750 and $1,000 per person for the evening, said Marriott spokeswoman Kathleen Duffy.
This year's celebration is shaping up to be a made-for-TV bonanza like never before.
More than a dozen major acts will perform on three different stages during the evening, including pop singer Christina Aguilera, the rap group Three 6 Mafia, country band Rascal Flatts, R&B singer Toni Braxton and the cast of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys."
Lesser known entertainers will start performing as early as 6 p.m., when the famously flashy New Year's Eve Ball is raised to the top of a flagpole.
The explosion of live acts is a recent phenomenon, fueled by fierce competition for viewers by the television networks, several of which have arranged their own entertainment on their own stage.
"If you're actually here, you get nonstop entertainment for six hours, whereas a few years ago, you would literally sit there and chatter your teeth," said Tompkins.
Dick Clark will be back for ABC's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" broadcast for the second time since a stroke caused him to skip a broadcast in 2004.
His appearance last year was an abbreviated one in which he acknowledged that his illness had left him in "bad shape," but Clark's spokesman, Paul Shefrin, said the icon was doing better and planned to lead the countdown to midnight.
"As each day or each month goes by, he improves a bit," Shefrin said. "He looks forward to being on the air, and I hope that people feel the same way."
As usual, the pinnacle of the evening will be the drop of the ball at 11:59 p.m. to mark the last 60 seconds of 2006, followed by much cheering and kissing.
Security will be tightened in Times Square for the celebration. Revelers will have to pass through police checkpoints. No bags or backpacks will be permitted and bomb sniffing dogs will roam the crowd.
Public drinking is once again banned, and visitors will be corralled in a series of viewing pens that curtail their ability to bar hop until the show ends.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week that revelers would be "safer in Times Square on New Year's Eve than anyplace else," but insisted that tight security will not spoil the show.
"The ball drops and people scream and the confetti comes down and the fireworks go up and the band plays. And it's just ... it's about as American and New York a thing as you can possibly do," he said.
"Come early," he added.