Times Square Crowd Braves Rain to Bid Wet Welcome to 2019

The show's official programming begins at 6 p.m., with the lighting and raising of the New Year's Eve Ball up a pole atop One Times Square

Rain drops fell along with confetti as revelers rang in 2019 in New York's Times Square, capping a soggy New Year's celebration that included singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha's stirring rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" just before midnight.

Crews used squeegees to sweep puddles from the performance stages, but Monday night's wet weather was still evident as boy band New Kids On The Block splashed up puddles while performing their hit "Step by Step" on a giant set of steps.

At midnight, as fireworks erupted over Times Square, couples kissed, families hugged and "Auld Lang Syne" played over loud speakers.

"It was like a true state of pure bliss and unity and love, and it felt like there was no hate in the world," said Brie Dunn, 22, of New York. "That's what I hope for in 2019 and all the years to come."

"It was surreal I never thought that I'd get to experience this firsthand," her mother, Suzanne, said.

The Times Square party is always a marathon, with often cold temperatures, tight security rules, hours-long waits and a lack of public toilets.

Veterans of the celebration said the rain wasn't all that bad, considering last year was one of the coldest on record at 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius). This year, the temperature was about 47 degrees (8.3 Celsius) as midnight struck.

"We're troopers. We got this," said Nyia Williamson, 41, a self-described New Kids On The "Block Head" who was at the party for the 11th time.

Some in the crowd were kneeling on the soaked ground with ponchos over them as puddles formed around spectator areas. The biggest cheers early on were for event workers handing out foam hats and blue gloves.

For the unprepared, though, staying dry meant ponying up. Vendors charged up to $10 for ponchos that ordinarily sell for $2.

Spectators started assembling late Monday morning to await performers, including Christina Aguilera, Snoop Dogg, Dan + Shay and Bastille.

The final 60-second countdown happened as a geodesic sphere - 12-feet (3.5-meters) in diameter, covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and lit by 32,256 LEDs - dropped down a pole. The numerals "2019" lit up at midnight accompanied by pyrotechnics and the release of 3,000 pounds of confetti.

Larissa Duke, a 22-year-old college student from Ontario, Canada, wrapped herself in a garbage bag and placed the top of an umbrella on her head to stay dry. Umbrellas were banned from the celebration for security reasons, so Duke had to discard the umbrella's shaft at a checkpoint.

"I was here last year and loved it so much I had to come again," Duke said. "The energy here is really just what keeps you going."

Justine Brenkel, 26, from Lyon, France, said being in Times Square on New Year's Eve was on her "bucket-list."

"It's unique. It's magic. It's New York," she said - but the hours of waiting were a bit of a disappointment.

"When we watch it on TV, it looks so much fun, there's so much animation," said Brenkel, who was attending the festivities with two friends. "But we're waiting for the show to start."

As always, the celebration is taking place under tight security, with partygoers searched at checkpoints and herded into pens ringed by metal barricades.

Thousands of police officers patrolled with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs, 1,225 security cameras and 235 "blocker vehicles" used to stop potential vehicle attacks. Police had planned to send up a drone to keep an eye on the festivities, but officials scrapped the flight due to the rain.

Once people enter the security pens, they can't come and go. So every year, a few restaurants in the square make deliveries. The Times Square McDonald's sent employees out with trays and menus to take orders.

Carmen Diaz, one of the workers delivering food, yelled "Happy New Year's" as she twirled on the sidewalk in a pink, cardboard fedora.

Husband and wife Bobby and Shivaraj Dhillon, from Watford, England, kept their spirits high by dancing to music playing over loudspeakers.

Shivaraj said she had a serious medical operation this year and that she and Bobby are planning on starting a family soon, making this New Year's Eve a perfect chance to do something adventurous.

"This is probably up there with my wedding day," Shivaraj said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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