Dec. 2 (UPI) -- New York City lit up its iconic Christmas Tree for the first time Wednesday night during the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Tishman Speyer CEO Rob Speyer concluded the ceremony by turning on the lights on the tree in Rockefeller Center as Wednesday's event was pared down from its usual splendor as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented large crowds.
The 2-hour event began at 8 p.m. EST and featured performances by Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Brett Eldredge, the Goo Goo Dolls, Meghan Trainor, Dolly Parton and Jimmy Fallon, Tori Kelly, Leslie Odom Jr., the Pentatonix, Dan + Shay, the cast of Ain't Too Proud, the cast of the Radio City Rockettes and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Today co-hosts Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin and Al Roker hosted the event and closed the evening with a message of support and appreciation for America's frontline workers amid the pandemic.
There was no public access to the event, leaving empty seats for the night's performances, but guests will be able to view the tree up close by reserving 5-minute slots in socially distanced pods starting Thursday. Visiting hours at the tree will be daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, 24 hours on Christmas Day and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve.
This year's 75-foot tree hails from Oneonta, N.Y., and is between 75 years and 80 years old, Rockefeller Center says. It is 45 feet wide and weighs 11 tons.
It boasts more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights on strings totaling about 5 miles long. It also features a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star, which was designed in 2018.
Shortly after erecting the tree, workers found a tiny northern saw-whet owl hidden among the branches. The owl was taken by the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, N.Y., and released back into the wild after receiving a clean bill of health.
Workers erected the first tree at Rockefeller Center in 1931 after pooling their money together to buy a 20-foot-tall balsam fir. The center made the tree a tradition and held its first lighting ceremony two years later.