NEW YORL >> Confetti fell, fireworks boomed and TV cameras rolled as a massive crowd in Times Square said goodbye to a dizzying year dominated by a bitter presidential election and gave a full-throated cheer to the prospect of a better 2017.
A sea of revelers that stretched for blocks hugged and kissed after watching the drop of a glittering crystal ball signal midnight.
“Everything is going to be new. I just want to find happiness this year and leave all the bad things behind,” said Maria Raimilla, of Richfield Park, New Jersey, just after midnight.
Jason Magee, of Manahawkin, New Jersey, said the year had highs and lows. As the clock struck midnight and confetti fell on the crowd, he kissed his girlfriend and said, “It’s a clean slate. Let’s go!”
Lori Haan, from Tucson, Arizona, and her husband were on their first trip to New York. She said she’s looking forward to 2017.
“This is a great start to the new year,” she said. “We are doing something new and exciting, and I hope that it’s a theme for the rest of the year.”
For more than two decades, security has gradually been tightened for the event. Recent deadly truck attacks in Germany and France brought about another security upgrade this year. Dozens of 20-ton sanitation trucks weighted with an extra 15 tons of sand blocked off streets leading to the celebration zone.
About 7,000 police officers, along with specially armed counterterrorism units and bomb-sniffing dogs, were on guard, police said.
“We’re well prepared,” police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “All New Yorkers should feel safe, especially if you’re in Times Square. It is going to be the most protected place in the city.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pushed the Waterford crystal button that began the 60-second countdown to 2017.
The highlight performance of the evening was supposed to be Mariah Carey performing “Emotions,” but she stopped singing after appearing to experience technical problems, and then she paced the stage urging the audience to belt out the lyrics instead.
“I’m trying to be a good sport here,” she said.
After the song finished, she looked exasperated.
A representative for the singer confirmed there were technical difficulties that hampered the performance.
“Unfortunately there was nothing she could do to continue with the performance given the circumstances,” said spokeswoman Nicole Perna.
Carey took to Instagram after the performance saying, “Here’s to making more headlines in 2017.”
Other featured acts included pop-rock band DNCE, country star Thomas Rhett and Gloria Estefan and the cast of her Broadway musical, “On Your Feet!”
After the ball dropped, cleanup began: A small army of city employees including 235 sanitation workers, 45 police officers and two deputy police chiefs immediately began the task of clearing the area of confetti and other garbage.
Last year, the crews removed more than 44 tons of debris.