By Paul Lomax
Special to DNAinfo
MANHATTAN — Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists alike jammed into Rockefeller Center Wednesday night watch the annual Christmas tree lighting.
"This is my first time here at the Rock and I'm loving it," said Army PFC Frank Dellabassa, 22, of Staten Island. "It's such a great holiday tradition. I wouldn't have missed this for the world!"
On hand to perform during the star-studded event, which will see the 74-foot, 10-ton Norwegian Spruce tree sparkle with over 45,000 lights at 9 p.m., were rapper Cee Lo Green, Canadian singer Michael Bublé and the Rockettes.
The hearts of tweens everywhere were aflutter earlier in the week with reports that pop prince Justin Bieber would make an appearance at the show. But organizers later said that the segment featuring the star would be pre-recorded.
Country songbird Faith Hill was also supposed to perform, but canceled her appearance.
The lineup changes did not damper the festive spirits of the throngs of visitors who gathered for a healthy helping of holiday merriment.
Pals Dean Williams, 18, Bianca Duran, 18, Lauren DeRusso, 19, and Mike Bozzi, 18, of New Jersey enjoyed their first visit to the tree-lighting ceremony.
"We're enjoying hanging out in the city and loving the Christmas spirit," said Williams.
Duran said that she normally watched the show "in my living room back home in New Jersey, but it's way better to see it in real life."
Sitting atop the massive evergreen is a 9 1/2-foot, 500-pound Swarovski star featuring 25,000 crystals that has adorned the holiday tree since 2004.
"I've been coming here every year since 2001, right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks," said Martin Pike, of the Upper West Side. "I'm very proud to be an American and I think the holiday season is a time for people to come together and enjoy lie and be happy."
This year's tree, which will be on view until Jan. 7, was donated by the Keller family of Mifflinville, Penn., where it was raised by Doyle Keller, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
The tradition started in 1933 as Rockefeller Center was being constructed. The first tree was decorated by construction workers with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, a few tin cans and even the tin foil ends of blasting caps.
After the tree is taken down in the New Year, it will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
Check out DNAinfo's Holiday Guide and Gifts page here.