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Monday October 14th, 2019 7:11AM

Throngs packing into Times Square for rainy New Year's Eve

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Revelers in New York's Times Square are contending with rain drops and a bit of price gouging ahead of the New Year's Eve ball drop.

Monday's rainy, but mild weather saw some people paying up to $10 for the kind of plastic ponchos that sell for less than $2 at Walmart.

Larissa Duke, of Ontario, Canada, went for a more frugal option.

The 22-year-old college student wrapped herself in a garbage bag and placed the top of an umbrella on her head to stay dry.

Umbrellas were banned from the celebration, so Duke had to discard the shaft of the umbrella at a security checkpoint.

"I was here last year and loved it so much I had to come again," Duke said. "The energy here is really just what keeps you going."

Last year's celebration was one of the coldest on record at 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius). This year, the temperature will be in the high 40s (7-10 Celsius), but rain is expected to linger into the first few hours of 2019.

Spectators started assembling late Monday morning for the latest rendition of the made-for-TV extravaganza.

Justine Brenkel, 26, from Lyon, France, said being in Times Square on New Year's Eve was on her "bucket-list." ''It's unique. It's magic. It's New York," she said — but the hours of waiting were turning it into a bit of a disappointment.

"When we watch it on TV, it looks so much fun, there's so much animation," said Brenkel, who was attending the festivities with two friends. "But we're waiting for the show to start."

Snoop Dogg, Sting and Christina Aguilera are scheduled to perform, followed by the traditional crystal ball drop, fireworks and a blizzard of confetti.

This year, the ball is a 12-foot (3.5-meter) diameter geodesic sphere covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles lit by 32,256 LEDs. The numerals "2019" will burst into light at midnight accompanied by pyrotechnics and the release of 3,000 pounds of confetti.

As has been the case for years, the celebration is taking place under tight security, with partygoers being searched for weapons at checkpoints and herded into pens, ringed by metal barricades, where they wait for the stroke of midnight.

"It seemed like airport security," said Lisa Carron, a 39-year-old preschool teacher also from Ontario. "That should keep us safe."

Thousands of police officers will be on hand to provide security, with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs, 1,225 security cameras and 235 "blocker vehicles" used to stop any potential vehicle attacks.

Dan + Shay, Bastille and New Kids On The Block will perform medleys of their hit songs on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," and singer songwriter Bebe Rexha will perform John Lennon's "Imagine" before the 60-second countdown to the midnight ball drop.

People arriving early enough to grab a standing spot in Times Square itself may have a good view of the stages where the entertainers perform. The rest of the throngs, stuffed into pens stretching several blocks north toward Central Park, will be able to follow the action on viewing screens.

There are no public toilets in the pens, backpacks are banned and there are no garbage cans either, so picnicking for the event can be rough. But revelers will have plenty of companionship, though experts say probably well short of the 1 million to 2 million spectators claimed by city officials and organizers.

Husband and wife Bobby, 36, and Shivaraj Dhillon, 35, from Watford, England, waited in the rain and cold for more than 10 hours but kept their spirits high and bodies warm by dancing to music playing over loudspeakers.

Shivaraj said she had a serious medical operation this year and that she and Bobby are planning on starting a family soon, making this New Year's Eve a perfect chance to do something adventurous.

"This is probably up there with my wedding day," Shivaraj said.

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