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CBSMiami (CBSMiami/FKNB) — Thousands upon thousands of people packed Miami’s Bayfront Park, downtown Ft. Lauderdale and Key West to ring in the new year.

In Miami, the festivities kicked off with a free concert hosted by Pitbull featuring Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Puff Daddy & the Family, Yazz and Jussie Smollett, Empire’s Timbaland and Earth, Wind & Fire.

“I think this is awesome. We’re getting together. This is what it’s all about, getting together, ringing in the New Year. It’s incredible. It’s an awesome feeling,” said spectator Hector Castano.

They feel the world is finally starting to understand that Miami truly is the best place to be on New Year’s Eve.

“You can’t compete with Time Square but Miami has it’s own flair. You have the Latin culture. You have everything that makes Miami, Miami,” said spectator Alyize Castano.

Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo is thrilled this nationally televised party is putting Miami in the spotlight for one of the things it does best.

“We want to compete with everybody because this is Miami. We’re unique and we invite everyone to come out here, enjoy the concert, enjoy the fireworks and have a great time,” said Commissioner Carollo.

Security is top of mind for event organizers. City officials are asking  anyone coming out to enjoy the party to show respect.

“We’re going to have numerous police officers here ensuring a good time. Fire Rescue will be out here to ensure safety and adress any medical concerns,” said Lt. Ignatius Carroll with Miami Fire Rescue.

As for the free concert, it consisted of two stages, one was located in the park and the other was at the amphitheater stage.

To the glee of thousands at Bayfront Park, Mr. 305, aka Mr. Worldwide, aka Pitbull himself took to one of those stages.

Despite the crowds, the decision was an easy one for most at Bayfront, young and youngish alike were at the free concert for a good time.

“We’re like, let’s go down to the waterfront,” Rayni Covax from Canada said.  “I don’t wanna go to South Beach. It’s too crazy. This is fun. It’s nice.”

“It was well worth it. Pitbull!  Well worth it! Yes!” Tey Rivers of Nashville said excitedly.  “After this I’m going back to Ocean Drive to see what we can get into.”

“A friend of ours told us about it,” said Karen Hill as she carried her infant and held her seven year old son’s hand.  Hill and her family are visiting from Charlotte.   “We love Pitbull. So we’re like yeah, let’s go see Pitbull.”

Pitbull paved the way for Mr. Neon, aka La Gran Naranja, aka the Big Orange which is made of hundreds of lights. It was hoisted up the side of the InterContinental Hotel Friday evening just in time for that South Florida tradition – being dropped at midnight, followed by fireworks over Biscayne Bay.

This will be followed by more musical performances until the party comes to an end around 12:30A.M.|

For those who want to avoid the crowds and instead catch the fireworks while sipping champagne on a mega-yacht, the Seafair is for you.

“We actually have some front row seating to the concerts next door, we have all the yachts that will be behind us and the fireworks as well as the ball drop,” Seafair Yacht General Manager Michael Kennedy told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.

In Broward, numerous preps were also underway.

An estimated crowd of 100,00 will take part in the annual Downtown Countdown in Ft. Lauderdale. The massive 11-hour street party, which takes place on Southwest Second Street between Southwest Second and Fifth avenues, is said to be one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Southeast. Activities for kids include face painting and bounce houses from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The city’s 10-foot lighted aluminum ball, which was retired last year, has been replaced with a 20-foot-tall anchor this year. Officials say it represents the city’s nautical heritage.

“Such a brilliant idea. We have such a great relationship with the marine industry. It is one of the driving industries here in South Florida. We have a great relationship with the US Navy and Coast Guard. And so that kind of connection of the marine industry we thought what a better way than to drop our anchor,” said Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.

The anchor, which is suspended 100 feet in the air by crane near Esplanade Park, lit up for the Kids’ Countdown at 7 p.m. It will stay lit until midnight when it will be illuminated with waves of color leading up to the midnight drop.

In the Keys, a dachshund parade and four unusual “drops” — including one featuring one of 2015’s final same-sex weddings — are to highlight New Year’s Eve celebrations.

For 17 years, Key West partiers have welcomed the new year with the annual “red shoe drop” starring female impersonator Sushi. Dressed in a gown and perched in a supersized red high-heel shoe suspended above the crowd, Sushi presides over festivities at the Bourbon St. Pub complex on Duval Street — and is to be lowered in her high-heel from the complex’s balcony as 2016 arrives.

About 90 minutes before her descent, the shoe will serve as a wedding venue for the marriage of Sushi and her longtime partner. New Year’s Eve revelers in Key West can witness one of the final LGBT weddings of 2015, the same year that saw same-sex marriage legalized nationwide.

A few blocks away, crowds can celebrate while watching a gigantic man-made conch shell, the symbol of the Florida Keys, descend to the roof of Sloppy Joe’s Bar. In the island city’s Historic Seaport, a pirate wench is to be lowered from the top of a tall ship’s mast outside the Schooner Wharf Bar. And a celebration at the Ocean Key Resort is to feature a huge replica of a Key lime wedge “splashing down” into a larger-than-life margarita glass.

New Year’s Eve revelry elsewhere in the Keys includes waterfront fireworks displays and parties in Key Largo and Islamorada as 2016 arrives.

The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.

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