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Revelers pack Times Square, usher in 2007

Security tight; alcohol banned

Leanne Cox (left) and Katie Surridge, both of Liverpool, were among those welcoming the new year in Times Square last night. City officials predicted a record turnout for the celebration, which was to feature several popular entertainers. (Henny Ray Abrams/Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- More than 1 million revelers in Times Square greeted 2007 with cheers, kisses, and a whopping 3.5 tons of confetti at the city's massive New Year's Eve party.

The famously flashy New Year's Eve crystal ball dropped down a flagpole to a countdown chorus led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US servicemen and women. Longtime host Dick Clark ticked off the final 10 seconds from a television studio.

Partygoers from all over the world poured into the area hours before the clock struck 12 to snag prime viewing spots. The happy crowd cheered and laughed, apparently unfazed by hours of standing and waiting without much water or food -- or bathrooms.

Amid tight security that revelers have come to expect since Sept. 11, 2001, one of the largest crowds on record flooded Times Square last night for the celebration.

With relatively high temperatures in the low 40s and more entertainment on tap, crowds packed Broadway all the way to Central Park for the festivities.

Frederic Henderson, of Newark, was in town with his sister, Stephanie Cheema, and her teenage son. He said he was eager for the new year to begin. "It's been a long year with the troops in Iraq and the problems overseas," he said. "I hope this year is better."

The spectators began filling the streets hours before the famed midnight drop of the New Year's crystal ball. They were in high spirits, cheering and joking as the celebration began around 6 p.m. with live music. Before the ball dropped, visitors dropped tens of millions of dollars on food, drink, and souvenirs, capping what some are calling the city's busiest tourism year ever.

Greg First and his 14-year-old daughter, Erika, traveled from Lavonia, Mich. "I've watched this for 40 years on TV, no joke," said First, 43. "I wanted to be here just once."

The two arrived at 10 a.m. and brought apples and nuts so they wouldn't have to move from their front-row spot.

The Police Department set up checkpoints and was not allowing any large bags, backpacks, or alcohol in the secure zone at the "Crossroads of the World." Bomb-detecting dogs were on patrol.

A lack of alcohol didn't bother Lena Zellers, 22, of Pittsburgh, who was attending the event for the first time with friends from New Jersey. She wore a "Happy New Year" tiara and "2007" sunglasses. "I came here to be here, not to be in a bar down the street," she said. "You can drink anytime."

More than a dozen major acts performed 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."

The Texas band Radiant kicked off the event, when the famously flashy New Year's Eve ball was raised to the top of a flagpole.

In New York, Clark was 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. "It's still the biggest party in the world," the raspy but healthy looking Clark said.

"This is the center of the universe," said Raffael Dalvise, who lives outside Venice, Italy. "There is no other place to be."

Still, celebrations were well-attended around the world.

Police estimated that a million people crammed the shore in Sydney, one of the world's first major cities to greet the New Year, for the fireworks and daylong festivities. Thousands of Japanese climbed Mount Fuji and other peaks to watch the first sunrise of the year.

Thousand of revelers gathered around London's Big Ben in stiff winds to watch the fireworks, and large crowds congregated around Paris's most famous avenue, the Champs-Elysées, to welcome 2007.

New Yorkers as well as tourists came out for the Times Square event. Eskie Garcia, of Queens, has attended the show for the past seven years.

"It's great," she said, standing next to families from Germany, South Africa, and California. "You meet all sorts of people, and you take in the joy and happiness of the season. I just love it."

Bloomberg said last week that revelers would be "safer in Times Square on New Year's Eve than anyplace else," but he insisted that tight security would not spoil the show.

"The ball drops and people scream and the confetti comes down and the fireworks go up and the band plays," he said. "It's about as American and New York a thing as you can possibly do."

Other community leaders said the atmosphere was far different than right after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the city.

"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, an organizer the party.

"That's so far removed from where New York is now," he said.

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