Under other circumstances, squeezing more than 1 million people into a few blocks on a frigid night would turn ugly.
But this is Times Square on New Year's Eve, where the mood is electric, and for the most part, people behave. For 10 seconds everyone is united, as teenagers sneaking drinks, visitors from all over the world and natives who swear they will never do this again count backward just before midnight.
Familiar faces will lead that countdown from New York on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2011." Clark, who's been at this since 1972, stays inside ABC's newsroom overlooking the jammed streets. Seacrest, who began in 2005, is on a stage in the street.
Seacrest loves the gig, though he admits to initially being a bit cowed.
"I was intimidated by all of it," Seacrest says from his offices at E! Entertainment Television. "I am not a native New Yorker, and the first time I experienced it, I was hosting a New Year's Eve show for another network. One thing is consistent every year: No matter what is going on in your life at the moment -- a split, a hardship of any kind -- you literally forget all of your anxiety and stress, and you forget everything when 'New York, New York' plays! If you could bottle the energy and electricity of those few moments."
Seacrest, who grew up in an Atlanta suburb, recalls staying in on New Year's Eve. His parents, now married for 40 years, would go out and leave him with a baby sitter and $15 for pizza. He'd settle in to watch Clark.
"I couldn't quite connect it the way I could in hindsight," Seacrest says. "I was in awe of him and the comfort of him, and you felt you were in Times Square, even though you weren't. When I host the show now, I imagine people at home, not there."
This year Jenny McCarthy joins Seacrest in Times Square. Performing live from Manhattan will be Taio Cruz and Ke$ha.
"I bet it's going to be awesome in Times Square, let alone performing," Ke$ha says. "This is a dream come true. I am helping the ball drop. I don't know what that entails.
"I hope it's chaotic," she says. "That's where I thrive the best. Screaming, rowdy fans are my natural habitat."
Ke$ha would say only that her performance will be a medley. She was still planning what to wear, which is a challenge considering she wants to look good and be warm.
"I have few options, and they all look like snowsuits," Ke$ha says. "At the moment, I'm trying to look a little sexier. I don't want to look like a hobo. I have never been to New York for New Year's Eve and never been singing outside in front of millions of people on New Year's Eve."
For Avril Lavigne, who was about to tape a performance for the Los Angeles portion of the show, last New Year's Eve was "a mellow dinner" with friends.
Fergie hosts the L.A. segment, which features Jennifer Hudson, Drake, Natasha Bedingfield and Train. Willow Smith, La Roux and Far East Movement are also in the lineup. Lavigne's launching a single, "What the Hell," on the show.
"This will be the first time everybody hears it, and to have it be on Dick Clark's New York countdown, I am stoked," Lavigne says.
"The song is a fun, upbeat song about being a free spirit and having fun and being a little wild and crazy," she says.
The New Year's Eve show, with its many live elements, is easy to host, Seacrest says.
"It's like covering a sporting event," Seacrest says. "Dick (Clark) gave me some great advice early on and that is, 'Shut up!' As you build up to midnight, let it be. Let the energy host the show. Let the crowd host the show. It's a traditional celebration."