Las Vegas to greet new year dazzling

With spark fountains firing, confetti falling and showgirls smiling, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and other local boosters announced the Strip's annual New Year's Eve fireworks show.

America's Party 2011, the largest New Year's Eve celebration west of the Mississippi River, will feature 8 minutes and 6 seconds of fireworks blasting from atop seven hotels along the three-mile Strip.

"It's a privilege to be here today with these beautiful ladies," Goodman said, referring to the two red-feathered showgirls at his sides. "They are as glamorous as the fireworks that everybody is going to enjoy."

Fireworks by Grucci returns to run the show, which will feature nearly 50,000 effects.

"Our biggest challenge each year is ourselves," Felix Grucci said during the press event at Fashion Show mall. "How do we make it bigger? How do we make it better?"

The show will feature music coordinated with fireworks firing from the rooftops of MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Aria, Caesars Palace, The Venetian, Treasure Island and Stratosphere.

"The skies are going to be painted with shades of blues and greens and yellows and reds," Grucci said. "Look up to the skies. Enjoy the party. Enjoy the excitement."

This will be the second year since safety concerns following the Monte Carlo fire pushed the fireworks launching points to parking lots and garages, instead of rooftops. That move left revelers unsatisfied, and the fireworks returned to the rooftops last year.

"I got more complaints about that ... than when I said I was going to kill the pigeons from PETA," Goodman said. "I said we'll never do that again. I said we'll either have the best fireworks in the world, or we're not going to have any fireworks at all. And Grucci promised us the best, and they kept their promise."

Tourism officials expect 310,000 visitors -- down from last year's 315,000 -- for the annual celebration that includes TributePalooza, a tribute band extravaganza at Fremont Street Experience.

The tourists will leave behind an estimated $175 million in non-gaming revenue, said Cathy Tull with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"If you don't have your tickets already, then come on down, we still have more rooms," she added.

At the Fremont Street Experience, 13 tribute bands featuring music from Green Day, Led Zeppelin, Heart and others will play well into the new year

Goodman said he'll be on Fremont Street, just as he has the past 12 years, walking through the crowd with his wife.

"Everybody's happy to see me and everybody spills a little booze on me," he said. "And at the end of the day I lick it off."

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@review or 702-383-0281.