Every December 31st, hundreds of thousands of people (maybe even a million) pour into Times Square to ring in the new year. On the last Tuesday of the decade, police officers screened those who dared to venture out here to stay in an outdoor pen for, oh, 16+ hours to see the glittering New Year's Eve Ball drop, and spend the first moments of 2020 surrounded by strangers.

"I watched the ball drop last year on TV and promised myself I'd be here for the 2020 one," said Chad Cruickshank, 37, of Independence, Missouri.

While his trip to New York was a year in the making, others were more spontaneous. "We just woke up [yesterday] and just decided if we're not going to do it this year, we're never going to do it. So we just got in the car and drove up here," Steven King said.

That meant King, and his girlfriend Alexa, drove 13 hours from Atlanta. Alexa was fully supportive of the last-minute trip, "We're really excited—he's always wanted to do this bucket list, and I've never been to New York! So it's a really once-in-a-lifetime thing."

"It's the center of the universe, this is the place where everyone is watching," King explained. "I think they said last year there were over a billion viewers on television. I don't know anywhere where you can go and watch something that literally one billion people on the planet are watching."

Steven King of Atlanta in Times Square—he's only wearing a suit jacket, no coat!

Steven King of Atlanta, with his girlfriend Alexa—they decided to come to NYC for New Year Eve's only the day before.

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Steven King of Atlanta, with his girlfriend Alexa—they decided to come to NYC for New Year Eve's only the day before.
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

The iconic New Year's Eve Ball will be raised at 6 p.m. to the top of a pole at One Times Square, and at 11:59 p.m., it will make a 60-second journey down to welcome 2020. The ball drop was tested on Monday—the test is especially important because it was three seconds late in 1995. Seeing the ball drop was a reason why Jesse Charles and his wife decided to travel from Houston for their second Times Square New Year's Eve.

"This is the place to be for New Year's... It's a great opportunity to look at New York—the festivities, the people, and atmosphere," Charles said. He was wearing a necklace of mini-disco balls and felt sufficiently prepared to handle the coming hours of waiting. "I learned to bundle up extra to stay warm," he revealed, noting that they were in Times Square in 2017, for the second-coldest New Year's Eve (10 degrees!). Today was comparatively balmy, but the Texan was dreaming of real Yankee weather.

"The only way it could be be better was if it snowed," Charles said wistfully.

Revelers and police officers pack Times Square on December 31, 2019

Jesse Charles, from Houston, is making his second trip to Times Square for New Year's Eve; he and his wife also braved the 10-degree weather in 2017!

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Jesse Charles, from Houston, is making his second trip to Times Square for New Year's Eve; he and his wife also braved the 10-degree weather in 2017!
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

However, for many people in a spectator area at Broadway between 47th and 48th Streets, the ball drop was not on their mind—they were there to see the pop sensation BTS, who flew in from South Korea to perform on one of the Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve stages (their stage time is 10:38 p.m.).

"Of course, I'm here to see BTS," Evelyn Jackson said. "I wouldn't come to see anyone else. They are amazing, talented, thoughtful. Their music inspires people... there are too many things to list, honestly. I would do anything for them."

Revelers and police officers pack Times Square on December 31, 2019

Evelyn Jackson had wanted to get to Times Square by 1 a.m. but ended up getting there with her friends by 3 a.m.

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Evelyn Jackson had wanted to get to Times Square by 1 a.m. but ended up getting there with her friends by 3 a.m.
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Jackson, 40, and her group of fellow BTS fans had wanted to arrive at 1 a.m., but they ended up getting to Times Square at 3 a.m. They waited on a long line along 48th Street and got a very good spot in front of the stage. She's actually experienced New Year's in Times Square before, so she was ready. "Drink lots of water the day before. Don't drink any coffee. Don't drink too many fluids if you can," she advised. "Also, hand warmers!"

King, the visitor from Atlanta, said he was prepared, even though he was only wearing a suit jacket and no coat. He showed off a piece of toast he stuck in his back pocket.

This is a piece of toast in Steven King's back pocket.

One man's snack plan: Some toast in his back pocket.

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One man's snack plan: Some toast in his back pocket.
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

As for the infamous "no bathrooms" situation in the viewing pens, there were different approaches to handling it. The Charles family's approach was to "just hold it," while Cruickshank didn't feel bothered, since he has worked sporting events for 12-16 hour stretches in the past. Jackson familiarized herself with bathrooms in the area, while King said with a wink, "We've prepared accordingly."

"We had to drink a lot of water last night so we’d be hydrated today,” said 15-year-old Janeejah Anderson.

"And we had to wear diapers," 11-year-old Megan Rodriguez chimed in.

"Yeah, we had to wear diapers!" her friends echoed.

Janeejah, Megan, and their friends were there with Megan's mother, Anna Rodriguez. When asked what her reaction was to the girls' wanting to see BTS in Times Square on New Year's, Rodriguez set me straight: "Actually, I was the one who told them we were going to Times Square to go see BTS—it was my idea, thank you, I’m a cool mom."

Gouri Gupta, 13, and her mother, Sunita, came up from Maryland to see BTS as well. Gouri offered this insight about being there: “If you're staying here for 11, 12 hours in the cold, you need to be able to actually say ok I'm going to do it. you have to be determine for it. It's a whole mind thing and it's not only what your body is going to do."

Revelers in Times Square on December 31, 2019.

A group of devoted BTS fans, including Gouri Gupta and her mother Sunita; Janeejah Anderson; and Megan Rodriguez and her mother Anna.

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A group of devoted BTS fans, including Gouri Gupta and her mother Sunita; Janeejah Anderson; and Megan Rodriguez and her mother Anna.
Jen Chung / Gothamist

Gouri befriended Janeejah and Megan's group. "We saw each other and just clicked," she said.

"We were dancing!" Janeejah interjected.

"Yeah, we were dancing, singing, blasting music," Gouri said.

The girls thought for a moment about what songs they wanted to hear, and they rattled off: "'Mic Drop'!" "'Idol'!" "'Mic Drop' and 'Idol'!"

"I want them to perform 'No More Dreams' and 'Blood Sweat and Tears,'" Gouri said decisively.

"YESSSS," the rest of the girls agreed. "We love BTS!"

Here are more details Times Square festivities tonights (what streets are closed, what mass transit is open) and how to watch the crowds and ball drop from the comfort of your own home.