Bay Bridge Lights Dazzle Onlookers At Opening Ceremony (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

03/06/2013 02:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2013

Thousands of San Franciscans braved the wind and showers on Tuesday night to catch a glimpse of The Bay Lights, a 25,000-LED light installation on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge--the largest of its kind in the world.

Artist Leo Villareal has been testing the lights for several weeks, but Tuesday marked the official turn-on. And though the show started a few minutes behind schedule, cheers erupted across the San Francisco Embarcadero when the installation came to life.

Tiny twinkling lights rained down the strands of the suspension bridge, flickering in unison and resembling shimmering fish swimming through a stream.

"Amazing light show in the city!" tweeted one onlooker.

Restaurants along the water were booked to the ceiling with diners hoping to watch the show, and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello's new restaurant Coqueta served free hot chocolate and churros to shivering onlookers outside.

"We had to turn down hundreds of people," said a general manager at Sinbad's Seafood Restaurant, which neighbors the bridge, to CBS.

Villareal joined Mayor Ed Lee, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and other local celebrities like Mark Pincus and the Gettys at a viewing party at Hotel Vitale.

The lights are scheduled to shine every night for the next two years, and though the installation is expected to cost a total of $8.8 million, it will do so without taxpayer dollars.

Villareal called the installation a "gift of light." "You don't have to buy a ticket," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "You don't have to go into a building."

Check out photos, courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography and Getty Images, from the lighting ceremony below. And be sure to submit your own if you took some!

The Bay Lights

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