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NYC welcomes 2011 with traditional ball-drop, revelers

By Jordana Ossad, CNN
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Times Square counts down to 2011
  • NEW: Mayor, medal of honor winner start the ball drop
  • 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

New York (CNN) -- An estimated 1 million people marked the passing of one year and the beginning of another in New York's Times Square with the descent of an iconic ball.

With the help of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, the dazzling crystal ball began its 70-foot drop at 11:59 p.m. Friday to the harmonious chants of New Year's Eve revelers counting down the final seconds of 2010.

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

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.

Anderson and Kathy welcome in 2011
Happy New Year from Russia
London welcomes in 2011
View of Times Square

Each giant New Year's numeral making up "2-0-1-1" will stand seven 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 Batteries 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.

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 city-wide "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."

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.