TIMES SQUARE — Hundreds of thousands of revelers poured into Times Square on Monday night to ring in 2013, cheering and screaming from behind police barricades in preparation for the city's iconic crystal ball to make its annual descent.
The crowd was expected to swell to roughly 1 million throughout the evening, organizers said, with more than a billion people watching from around the world.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will push the button to lower the ball, made of 2,688 Waterford crystals and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds, as the countdown officially begins.
Before then, spectators will be treated to performances by Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees, "The Voice" winner Cassadee Pope and Psy, the Korean rapper of "Gangnam Style" fame.
Revelers began flooding Times Square early on Monday, armed with noise makers and other 2013 paraphernalia. By early evening, the crowds had stretched more than 10 blocks north of West 42nd Street.
Nicolas Torcanovsky, 18, saved for two years to come to New York from Argentina to celebrate New Year's Eve.
"I have been dreaming of coming here for a long time for New Year's," said Torcanovsky, who said he had been in Times Square since 10 a.m. Monday. "I have always seen it on movies, on TV, and now I'm here, and I can't believe it."
Torcanovsky said he hadn't yet been to the bathroom, despite having stood in Times Square for nearly 12 hours. But he did shell out $15 for a Big Mac and fries when a McDonald's worker came by taking orders from those hemmed in by police barricades.
"I don't care how much it is. I'm starving," he said.
Genesis Valencia, 19, lives in The Bronx and was pressured into coming to Times Square by her friends, who are visiting from Ohio and Brazil.
"I thought it was going to be awful, but I am so glad I was convinced into it," said Valencia, who said she got to Times Square around 2 p.m. and scored a spot right in front of the stage. "I would love to do it again. This is heaven right now."
Kate McCarthy, 21, who is visiting New York from Australia, got to Times Square around 7 a.m. with her mom.
"We knew it was going to be bad, but it's a once in a life time opportunity," said McCarthy, as she watched the band Neon Trees perform.
"Your legs get tired — everything gets tired — but then something like this happens," she added, referring to the live performance just a few steps away. "And you are just energized."
Ara Kim, 21, decided to spend New Year's Eve instead of her native Seoul, South Korea, forgoing duck gu — a traditional Korean New Year's Eve food — and watching her country's annual tradition of bells tolling at midnight to spend hours standing in freezing temperatures in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
"They don't show the New York City ball drop on TV in Korea so I steal away to watch it online," Kim said. "I have wanted to see it in person as long as I can remember."
Aran Clayton, 21, came to Times Square dressed as a tiger because he felt the costume would set him apart from the crowds.
Clayton, who lives in Manchester, England, said he has resorted to unzipping the costume to pee in a bottle in front of him as the hours drag on.
But, he explained, "it's worth it to be different."
Ghada Alanzi, originally from Saudi Arabia, and her husband, Ahmed, brought their 1-year-old son, Fahad, to Times Square Monday night to "make a memory he'll never forget.
"This time last year he had just been born," said Alanzi, who fed Fahad McDonald's French fries in his stroller since there were no other food options. "And this is his first year in the U.S."
"This will be in his memory always," Ahmed added.
A trio of friends from Japan said they decided to come to New York for New Year's after watching the film "New Year's Eve."
The threesome came prepared for the lack of toilets and food they knew they would encounter, with a bag full of snacks, a "portable toilet" and portable heating pads from Japan.
"We haven't used them yet," said Michiyo Kai, flashing one of the fold-up plastic toilets still in its package. "Do you want one?"
Vito Parisi, 71, a former New York City police officer, said he never wanted to experience the ball drop Times Square on New Year's Eve, but his "honey," Donna Jackson, convinced him to check out the event.
"I'm his Motown honey," laughed Donna Jackson, 60, a Detroit native who now lives in Tennessee along with Parisi.
"It's great to enjoy it with everybody, I may never get this chance again," Jackson said, "and you can't let life pass by."
Times Square has been the site of New Year's Eve celebrations since 1904, with the first annual ball drop held three years later, in 1907.