NEW YORK – More than a million revelers in Times Square cheered as the giant crystal ball made its 100th drop on Monday night and a ton of confetti rained down on the urban canyon, ushering in the new year.
University of North Carolina junior Reid Medlin, 21, attended the celebration with his friends Rachel Rand, 20, and Jeremy Crouthamel, 20. They were in the city for the first time and planned to stay up all night because they had no hotel.
"I think the best part is being here with friends," Medlin said as confetti floated down on him and people kissed around him. "This was beautiful. It makes you appreciate everything."
Rand said it didn't matter that they didn't have a place to sleep.
"I'm too happy to go to bed," she exclaimed.
The Times Square tradition began a century ago with a 700-pound ball of wood and iron, lit with 100 25-watt incandescent bulbs. This year's event featured an energy-efficient sphere clad in Waterford crystals, with 9,576 light-emitting diodes that generated a kaleidoscope of colors.
Organizers said well over a million people attended the festivities.
They were treated to an entertainment lineup that included Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest handling the countdown to 2008 and musical performances by Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus and other acts. Even New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez showed up, shaking hands and posing for photos as he waited for midnight.
The Times Square Alliance, the business group running the event, handed out thousands of balloons and mittens to the crowd, which waited for hours in chilly winter weather for the main event. The confetti included pieces of paper with the new year's wishes and resolutions of people who submitted them in advance.
Diana and David Sutton, of Fort Myers, Fla., and their three young children had been waiting for the ball drop since 10 a.m. They bought plastic chairs at a nearby Toys "R" Us and bundled up with Spider-Man hats as they waited.
"It's such an experience," David Sutton said. "The kids are behaving; they're loving this. They've never seen snow before, and they got to see that, too, earlier this week."
Milwaukee resident Jennelle Joset and her mother, Wanda Bowers, had been standing around since 1 p.m., wearing hats with big plastic wheels of cheese to show their Wisconsin pride.
"It's on my bucket list," Bowers said. "I had to do this once, to see it once before I die."
There were strict rules for revelers: no alcohol, large bags or backpacks — and no re-entry after leaving the viewing area. The few public restrooms were closed by the afternoon.
Chase Pellegrin, 18, his sister Chandler, 13, and their parents were steps away from their hotel but didn't want to lose their viewing spots.
"I'm just not drinking anything. No water, nothing. I don't want to worry about it," said Chase Pellegrin, of Covington, La., located on the opposite side of Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans.
The first celebration in the area, in 1904, was held by New York Times owner Adolph Ochs, who was building a new headquarters in the neighborhood.
The city had just renamed the oddly shaped square in the newspaper's honor, and at midnight Ochs had pyrotechnists illuminate his building at 1 Times Square with fireworks shot from street level.
Three years later, when the city banned fireworks, Ochs brought in the iron and wooden ball, to be lowered from the building's flagpole at midnight.
As 2007 wound down, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had touted a record low murder rate, improved high school graduation rates and quality-of-life improvements made around the city.
"I hope we can continue all the trends ... 2007 has been a great year for New York City," Bloomberg said in an interview with the NY1 cable news station. "Let's just hope we can duplicate it in '08."