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Kathy Willens, Associated Press
Revelers dressed for expected 20 degree temperatures line a barricade in Times Square hours before the celebration was set to begin on New Years Eve in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014.

NEW YORK — Revelers eager to claim spots to ring in 2015 in Times Square arrived hours early on Wednesday, enduring freezing temperatures and a scarcity of restrooms before the glittering ball drop at midnight at the Crossroads of the World.

"Well, this is a bucket list item you have to do once in your life," said Caitlin Deavy, a tourist from Ottawa. "Come to Times Square and freeze for a couple of hours."

Agustina Bernacchia, a tourist from Argentina, agreed.

"We want to live the experience, to be in Times Square in New Year's Eve," she said. "It was a dream for us."

The 11,875-pound ball was poised high above the gathering masses, awaiting the big midnight moment, when up to a million revelers planned to watch its glittery trip down a pole in the last seconds of 2014.

Temperatures in the 50s just days earlier plunged to freezing as the new year approached. Merrymakers passed through security checks and entered pens where they must stay to reserve good views. On the plus side, there was no rain or snow in the forecast.

The realities of standing in the cold for hours to share a memorable and euphoric moment with others from around the globe led some to acknowledge their difficult quests.

"It will be unenjoyable, but I won't leave," said Michael Smith, a Texas tourist.

"It's once-in-a-lifetime stuff," said Grace Ramanivosoa, a Madagascar tourist. "For the first time and maybe the last time in my life doing New Year's Eve here."

Ryan Seacrest was slated to host the countdown show, with Taylor Swift, Idina Menzel, Florida Georgia Line and Magic! among the musical guests. When the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops, so will 1 ton of confetti containing well wishes for the upcoming year.

Security was tight. Thousands of police officers were on scene, with rooftop patrols and police helicopters protecting the crowd, along with the bomb squad and a unit specializing in chemical and biological threats sweeping hotels, theaters, construction sites and parking garages.

The celebration came in a city facing more demonstrations against police brutality even as it mourns the deaths of two officers shot in their patrol car by a man who vowed online to kill "pigs." A march from Union Square north as close to Times Square as possible was planned for Wednesday evening. Police said they had prepared for protests and were on heightened alert. Since the shootings, authorities have investigated at least 70 threats made against police officers, and 16 people have been arrested.

Associated Press video journalist David Martin contributed to this report.