All day Sunday, thousands of New Yorkers and tourists flooded into Times Square to experience the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop marking the end of one year, and the start of another.
At least one million people were expected to cram their way into the crossroads of the world, and many of them began staking out their spot Saturday night. Sleeping on the concrete, bundled up in jackets, and munching on pizza, attendees told amNewYork Metro that they just needed to be there in person to ring in the new year.
“It’s special because you see the ball drop, and everyone’s traveling from all over and you just have that special feeling that your life is in New York and your home is in New York,” 60-year-old Greg Packer told amNewYork Metro.
Packer, from Huntington, LI, explained that he made the trek to Times Square annually until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which brought his tradition (and normal life) to a halt. This year marks Packer’s return to the iconic event as pandemic fears faded.
“It can be difficult because everybody’s shoulder-to-shoulder and wall-to-wall, like a mosh pit. But you know, once everybody gets used to their surroundings and understands one another, it becomes easier to make friends,” Packer said. “It’s a sense of community and coming together.”
While New Year’s Eve in Times Square is an annual pilgrimage for some, for others it is a moment for emotional rejuvenation and the promise of a new start.
Monique Cubas, 38, from Brooklyn shared that she recently lost her father and wanted to spend the night with thousands of new friends.
“I needed the boost. My father just died just a few days ago. I find myself alone so I came out,” Cubas said. “I love seeing people gather together. That’s what it’s all about.”
Donning New Year’s hat and glasses, Cubas said she is most excited to see Ryan Seacrest and LL Cool J.
Cory Root, 33, moved from Arkansas to New York City and has wanted to attend the New Year’s Eve ball drop for quite some time now, only to be stymied in recent years by the pandemic and related crowd restrictions.
Now, Root finally got the chance to celebrate New Year’s in Times Square in person, arriving at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue at around 8:30 a.m. Dec. 31. He stated that he was surprised by the camaraderie formed by fellow attendees.
“Getting really close to the people around you has been nice,” Root said. “I was not born and raised [in New York], but just seeing it on TV is just something I think a lot of people should experience at least once and New Year’s is my favorite holiday because you get to start over and have new hopes and aspirations.”