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New York to welcome 2011 with traditional ball-drop, big crowds

By Jordana Ossad, CNN
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NYPD gearing up for Times Square crowds
  • Since 1907, a ball-drop in Times Square has marked the changing of the year
  • This year, the ball will have lights that can mix to produce millions of colors
  • More than a ton of confetti will be released at midnight

New York (CNN) -- Just as it has happened for more than a century as the old year ticks toward history, a large crowd will gather Friday night in New York's Times Square to mark the old and the new with the descent of an iconic ball.

The dazzling crystal ball will begin its 70-foot descent precisely at 11:59 p.m. ET to the chants of New Year's Eve revelers counting down the final seconds of 2010, according to the event's official website. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta will push a button to start the ball toward 2011.

Weighing in at 11,875 pounds with a diameter of 12 feet, the sparkling sphere is covered with 2,668 triangular crystals and is powered by 32,256 LED lights. By mixing red, blue, green and white light elements, the ball's lighting system is capable of producing a kaleidoscopic array of 16 million hues and colors, and billions of patterns, the event's website says.

Each giant New Year's numeral making up "2-0-1-1" will stand 7 feet high and the numerals will use a total 453 9-watt LED bulbs. As in the past three years, the numerals were designed to be more energy efficient, as Duracell set up a lab in which visitors rode stationary bikes to provide the stored battery power that will light the numbers on the ball Friday night.

More than one ton of confetti will be released at midnight, with personal individual wishes written in more than 25 languages, a tradition from the past three years.

Preview: Times Square on New Years Eve
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Times Square has served as one of the most popular sites of New Year's festivities since 1904, though the New Year's Eve ball made its inaugural drop down the flagpole at One Times Square in 1907. That first ball, built with iron and wood, featured one hundred light bulbs and was designed by Jacob Starr, a young immigrant metalworker.

The New Year's Eve ball has beamed and dropped every year since with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the United States was embroiled in World War II and New York City observed a citywide "dim-out" to cut energy costs.

According to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, this New Year's Eve celebration, like years in the past, is a product of a lot of hard work and planning by many people.

"We don't ever take it for granted," Kelly said. "The situation changes somewhat, we have sort of a core plan but we always add to it or change it -- we don't want to get stuck in a rut where we simply take a plan off the shelf."

iReport: Times Square readies for the crowds

As in previous years, security will be tight. Times Square will be closed to traffic at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday. Backpacks and alcohol are prohibited at the event and party-goers can expect a beefed-up police presence, according to the statement from the New York Police Department.

"It is a big complex operation and you know you always breathe a sigh of relief when it's over," Kelly said.