As the film industry prepares to throw its biggest party of the year Sunday night, the streets surrounding Hollywood Boulevard buzz with activity. Bleachers rise in front of the red carpet, security is rampant, and tourists crowd the sidewalks, taking selfies and basking in the glamour of the scene.

Amid all the hoopla, many fans stop to check out the pink-and-bronze stars that line the sidewalks around the theater, exclaiming at the endless parade of famous names etched on the stars. Like the awards ceremony it fronts, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic landmark that is one of the most recognized attractions in Los Angeles. Between 10 million and 12 million people visit the 18 blocks that line Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street every year, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Some flock to the stars honoring famous singers and actors, while others enjoy a nostalgic stroll past long-ago legends from another era.

“These artists made a contribution and are remembered for eternity,” notes Laurie Jacobson, author of several books about historic Hollywood. “In a town where you're only as good as your last movie, that kind of recognition is the ultimate embrace.”

Walk of Fame

The Walk of Fame began in the 1950s as a marketing plan “to maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world,” according to a press release from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Selection committees were appointed for four categories of film, TV, recording and radio. (The category of live performance/theatre was added later.) Actors were among the first nominated honorees.

Today, the Walk of Fame has 2,573 stars and continues to add an average of two per month, notes Ana Martinez, vice president of media relations and producer of the Walk of Fame.

But the process of getting a star on the storied pavement is more complicated than one might think.

First, a celebrity must be nominated and sponsored by a separate entity, often a movie studio, film festival, or record label with ties to the star's latest release, says Martinez. Then a chairperson and five committee members sift through the nominations and select 12 to 15 names based on a series of factors such as body of work, awards, and charitable contributions. The sponsorship fee is $30,000, half of which goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust, a nonprofit group that spearheads restoration efforts. The other half covers the physical marker itself and the costs of the ceremony and publicity that comes with it.

Walk of Fame

Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

For decades, the job of creating and placing each star has gone to a family-run construction outfit that also installs terrazzo floors in malls and airports. Each five-point star is made from pink stone rimmed with bronze and set into a square of granite. Bronze letters are inlaid on-site into the star to spell out the celebrity's name, and a small bronze plaque represents the celebrity's area of entertainment: a movie camera for film stars, TV set for TV stars, record for music stars, microphone for radio stars, and comedy/tragedy masks for stage actors. Watch the intricate process taking place here.

Ana Martinez

Walk of Fame Producer Ana Martinez at a star ceremony in front of the Dolby Theatre in L.A.

Martinez, who has produced about 600 Walk of Fame ceremonies in her 27 years working for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, still loves the excitement and crowds the free public event draws. A section of street is closed to car traffic and anywhere between 600 to 4,000 people show up to cheer on the star, she says. One of her favorite ceremonies involved Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who was feted with a performance by a local children's choir. Bocelli joined one young soloist in a rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” in an emotional moment that brought many in the audience to tears, Martinez recalls. “It was a beautiful thing.”

Not everyone on the Walk of Fame is instantly recognizable or fits easily into an entertainment category. Fictional characters have their own stars, as do members of the crew of the Apollo 11 moon landing (their bronze plaques are round, instead of star-shaped). Jessica Dragonette, a singer who originated the role of Vivian the Coca-Cola girl on the first serial radio program sponsored by Coke in the 1920s, has her own star.

On Friday, Italian film composer Ennio Morricone will receive the 2,574th star on the Walk of Fame, just two days before he walks the red carpet as a nominee and guest of Hollywood's biggest annual event. And Martinez expects the Walk of Fame event will be as thrilling and energizing as the awards ceremony itself.

"Once they are up there next to that star with their name on it, they can't believe it," she says. "It's there forever."