Tens of thousands of people gathered in Rockefeller Center on Tuesday night to watch the lighting of the country's most famous Christmas tree, just days after a terror scare at a tree lighting in Oregon.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped turn on the 30,000 energy-efficient lights dressing the Rockefeller Christmas tree following a show featuring performances by Jessica Simpson, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, British singer Katherine Jenkins, and teen pop star Charice.
The 74-foot Norway spruce, donated by Peter and Stephanie Acton of Mahopac, N.Y., will be on view until Jan. 7.
The event took place less than a week after the arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American man charged in an alleged plot to blow up a car bomb at an Oregon Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland.
"It kind of crossed my mind but not enough to keep me away," said 44-year-old Lisa Kingston, who was visiting from Canada with her friend and had wanted to see the event in person after many years of watching it on TV.
Her sentiments were echoed by 41-year-old Bonnie Hixson of Lubbock, Texas.
"It's a sign of our religious freedoms and a sign of our freedom to celebrate," Hixson said. "It's what gets my Christmas season off to a start."
New York City police prepared for the sizable crowd by blocking off streets and urging people to use mass transit instead of cars to get there.
"Since 9/11, the NYPD has introduced counter-terrorism measures in an abundance of caution at large gatherings in the city year-round," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. "We're prepared for a large crowd for the Christmas tree lighting."
The annual tree lighting is a highlight of a season of wonderment for sightseers and exasperation for anyone trying to get to work.
For people who work in the area, the walk to the office can turn into an obstacle course, requiring maneuvering strategies.
"It's a matter of bobbing and weaving between them. I've got short legs and I've got to make them move," said Vanessa Ortiz, an administrative employee who was walking through the concourse underneath Rockefeller Center on Monday, the day before the lighting.
Those large crowds will be a common sight for the next month, taking over the sidewalks and walkways and turning a quick jaunt for a coffee break into a drawn-out expenditure of time.
"It's just crazy," said Amanda Grogan, in charge of displays at the Anthropologie store, walking through the already-crowded concourse with a co-worker.
In December, "You can barely move down here," she said. "I just basically try to avoid everybody and stay away from the slow-moving crowds."
Among her tactics: bringing lunch from home, coming to work early and leaving early.
Some took the onslaught of bodies with a certain "What-are-you-gonna-do?" shrug.
"Some people are so uptight, they just need to relax," said another worker, Jim Detmer, as he walked through the complex. "It's the holiday season, it's a good time of year here, it's exciting. It's the center of Christmas."
Not everyone felt that way. Michelle Lino, of Bohemia on Long Island, was bracing for her first Christmas spent working in the Rockefeller Center area.
Even before the holidays, the 39-year-old hated the crowds she walks through to get to work.
"If I could go to Hawaii for three weeks, I would," she said.
Some Tree Facts:
Tree Type: Norway Spruce
74 feet (22.6 meters) tall
40 feet (12.2 meters) in diameter
Approximately 12 tons (10.9 metric tons)
Approximately 75 years old
Donated by the Acton family
30,000 multi-colored, LEDs on five miles (8 km) of wire
Swarovski Crystal Star:
25,000 crystals and one million facets and measuring
9 ½ feet (2.9 m) in diameter and 1 ½ feet (50 cm) deep
The 2010 Swarovski star features a lighting system redesigned in 2009, with 720 energy-efficient LED bulbs and a state-of-the-art computer program, to create a stunning, twinkling effect through customized light sequencing.
Unveiled on November 18th, 2010.
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, 7:00-9:00 PM at Rockefeller Plaza.
Hours of Illumination:
Spectators can view the lighted tree each day from 5:30 A.M. - 11:30 P.M.; all day (24 hours) on Christmas; and from 5:30 A.M. – 9 P.M. on New Year’s Eve. The last day to view the tree is January 7, 2011.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
Some Historical Milestones:
1931 - Workmen on a muddy construction site put up the first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. At the time of the Depression, the workmen placed the tree amidst the construction, proud to have the tree on the site of their jobs.
1933 - First formal Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony. The tree was decked with 700 lights in front of the eight-month-old RCA Building.
1936 - Two trees, each 70 feet (21.3 m) tall, were erected. For the first time the Lighting Ceremony included a skating pageant on the newly opened Rockefeller Plaza Outdoor Ice Skating Pond.
1942 - Three trees were placed on Rockefeller Plaza, one decorated in red, one in white and one in blue to show support for our troops serving during World War II.
1949 - The tree was painted silver, to look like snow.
1951 – The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit for the first time on national television on the Kate Smith Show.
1966 - The first tree from outside the United States was erected. It was given by Canada, in honor of the Centennial of its Confederation. This is the farthest distance a tree has traveled to Rockefeller Center.
1980 - For the 50th Anniversary of Tree Lighting, a 70 foot-tall (21.3 m) Norway Spruce came from the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Seminary of Mahwah, N.J. Bob Hope participated in the Lighting.
1999 – The largest tree in Rockefeller Center history, 100 feet tall (30.5 m), came from Killingworth, Conn.
2004 – The Swarovski-designed star became the largest star to ever grace the tree.
2007 – For the first time, the tree was lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LEDs. They draw a fraction of the power that had been traditionally required by the tree, reducing energy consumption from 3,510 kwH to 1,297 kwH per day, saving as much energy as a single family would use in a month in a 2,000 square foot (185.8 m²) home. Hundreds of solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller Center buildings help power the new LEDs.
To see the livestream Windows users must have Windows Media Player installed (most computers already have this) and Mac users must have the Flip4Mac plug-in installed. Links to these components are below.
Windows Media Player Link: