The new year in Las Vegas may have been ushered in by the costumed —Cookie Monster, Jack Sparrow, Captain America, Elvis and risqué policewomen — but the lederhosen were real.
Mykal and 11 friends left Austria for five weeks in the United States and, of course, New Year’s Eve in Sin City. Some of them even wore their nation’s traditional dress to America’s Party on the Strip. While awaiting 2014, the group celebrated so hard they couldn’t spell their last names.
More than 180 fireworks per second shot from the roofs of seven Strip hotels at the stroke of midnight, continuing for eight minutes.
Like many of the night’s revelers, the dozen Austrians had no plans in particular. They wandered the Strip as temperatures fell, reaching the 20s by midnight, with drinks in hand. At times, more was spilled than sipped.
Across town, Kurt Condra was somewhere he’s never been for New Year’s Eve, although he has lived in Las Vegas for years.
“My wife used to say no (Fremont), but I just got a divorce,” said the 32-year-old man wearing a green party hat and standing outside downtown’s Walgreens on Fremont Street.
Parties roared all over the Las Vegas Valley, giving revelers a vast array of choices for how to ring in the New Year.
More than 335,000 visitors were expected in Las Vegas for one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve gatherings, bringing an estimated nongaming economic impact of $213 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Both figures are on par with last year’s numbers.
Although New Year’s Eve visitation is flat compared with 2012, the last day of 2013 was expected to attract more people than in 2011, when 314,000 visitors celebrated in Las Vegas.
Despite the crowds, Las Vegas police said in a press release that the celebration was “one of the most orderly in recent history.” As of 1:30 a.m., police were reporting seven arrests within the Strip corridor. The Downtown Area Command, which covers Fremont Street, reported no arrests.
Las Vegas police made two DUI arrests in connection with the New Year’s Eve celebration.
Fremont Street Experience celebrated the Downtown Countdown on New Year’s Eve with performances from Papa Roach, Blues Traveler, Loverboy, Vince Neil and Adelitas Way.
CAPITALIZING ON THE CRAZY
The main event in town was America’s Party on the Strip, where the showgirls and Jack Sparrow were out early trying to capitalize on the event, which was picketed by a group wielding signs calling to “Stop Abortion. End Sodomy. Halt Islam.”
Showgirls Chelsea Foreman and Cheyanne Haas, spending their first New Year’s Eve on the Strip, smiled and waved as thousands of people made their way down Las Vegas Boulevard.
“I’m getting an adrenaline rush, and the night is just beginning,” said Foreman, of Showgirl Mafia Entertainment. “The morning should be exciting to see all the drunk people passed out on the street.”
Cookie Monster danced his way around the Strip, snapping pictures and high-fiving young revelers near the Mandarin Oriental hours before the New Year’s Eve ball dropped.
“I’m out here trying to make money,” said Nat Crail, the man inside the costume who has eight children. “I have to help out my family.”
Crail has been going to the Strip for New Year’s Eve since he was 16. Though the crowds were thin about 7:30 p.m., the Tonopah native hoped things would pick up as the night went on.
“The night is still young,” Crail said.
That it was as Michael Vechello blew on his saxophone to the tune of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” near Harmon Avenue, and passersby threw money into his case.
“I’ll be out here until 3 or 4 in the morning, maybe even until the sun rises,” said 31-year-old Vechello, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., who is saving to make movies. “It’s tough in this town.”
Vechello came to Las Vegas five years ago to help his mom, who was diagnosed with cancer, and often plays the Strip to raise money for her.
“Some nights can be tough out here, but I’ll keep on trying.”
A SHOWER OF SPARKS
More than 10,000 circuits were set to ignite the 88,000 pyrotechnics in split-second unison from seven Las Vegas Boulevard resorts — MGM Grand, Aria, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and the Stratosphere — making for a choreographed-to-music spectacle.
Steve Yarling has left his boat at Morro Bay, Calif. every holiday season for 15 years to visit his mother and join the masses on the Strip for New Year’s Eve. Tuesday was no different for the 59-year-old man, who was doing his “pirate duty.” Yarling said as he shares pirate puns with the public and announces the new year on his “shell phone,” a conch shell about the size of a child’s head.
“I love it here,” said the former commercial fisherman. “It’s such a different world for me, the lights and the people on the Strip.”
Fireworks were by the same company on New York’s Long Island, Fireworks by Grucci, planning to break a Guinness World Record for biggest fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. That record-breaking show was in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai with 1,250 explosions per second for a total of about 450,000 fireworks.
Those younger than 18 weren’t allowed to stay on the Strip after 9 p.m. because of curfew, unless with a parent or adult legal guardian. But 16-year-old Javier Velazco began standing in front of Treasure Island at 6 p.m. and won’t leave until 1 a.m., he said. The Desert Pines High School student is selling New Year’s Eve memorabilia with his friend’s parents.
Wares included glittery hats and novelty 2014 glasses.
“I’m doing this for my family,” said Velazco, patiently negotiating with drunken partygoers not wanting to pay $5 per hat.
At 7 p.m. on Fremont Street, Las Vegas resident Eric Metz announced a message for all to hear outside The D Las Vegas.
“We’re going to have fun and get into trouble,” said the 46-year-old man wearing a Viking helmet.
Review-Journal writers Ben Botkin, Rochel Leah Goldblatt, Wesley Juhl and Steven Slivka contributed to this report. Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.