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New York celebrates 2015 with Taylor Swift and a big ball
[NEW YORK] Hundreds of thousands of revelers braved frigid temperatures and poured into New York's Times Square on Wednesday for America's annual New Year party that this year features Taylor Swift.
About a million people were expected to pack the famous square, known across the globe for its non-stop bustle, giant illuminated billboards and New Year tradition of dropping an enormous crystal ball down a pole.
People traveled from far and wide for the party, which includes a musical show and culminates with the crystal orb's star turn.
The nearly 12,000-pound (5,400-kilogram) ball features 32,000 LED lights and 2,688 Waterford crystals, and will slide down the pole to mark the final minute of 2014.
Almost 200 million Americans were expected to tune in for the moment, and organizers estimated it would eventually be seen by as many as one billion more people around the world.
Ryan Seacrest will host a televised live show ahead of the 2015 countdown, and several musical acts including Taylor Swift and singer-songwriter Idina Menzel will perform.
Temperatures were around freezing but wind chill made it feel several degrees cooler.
Ryo Koto, who had traveled for 30 hours from Fukuoka in Japan, was among the first to arrive in the square.
"We made it!" he told the New York Daily News, sporting an American flag across his shoulders and a pair of 2015 glasses. "First ones in! This is so awesome, so cool." New York police officers were out in force, enforcing an alcohol ban and using bomb-sniffing dogs to check for potential threats.
The beleaguered New York Police Department has come under scrutiny in recent days after two of its own were shot dead in an ambush.
Some officers, fearing for their safety, have reportedly cut back on arresting people for minor offenses.
The man who killed the officers had said he was reacting to the high-profile police killings of unarmed African American men. Several such cases in 2014 sparked nationwide protests.
The police department has been involved in a public spat with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio after he said he had urged his biracial son to take extra care when dealing with officers.