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Las Vegas pairs fireworks with light rain to welcome 2023

Hundreds of thousands of revelers ushered in 2023 with a sea of sparkling fireworks and a sprinkling of raindrops Saturday night on the Strip, marveling at the show that went off without a hitch despite concerns about inclement weather.

Light rainfall started about an hour before showtime, with sprinkles falling on bejeweled crowds on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas. Raindrops continued to fall in parts of the valley as the clock struck midnight, but the uncharacteristically wet weather did little to dampen spirits.

Earlier in the evening, multiple Strip marquees warned that high winds could delay the spectacle, but breezes weren’t a problem when the fireworks erupted on cue during the themed “Let’s Go Big!” celebration.

“It felt like a contest … or a boxing match between casinos,” Vincent Cook of Raleigh, North Carolina, said after watching the show in the rain and celebrating his fifth wedding anniversary with wife Diana Cook from the front of The Strat.

Related: Hundreds of thousands celebrate the new year on the Strip — PHOTOS

About a half hour before 2023, National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Meltzer said it was “far too early” for the agency to measure any precipitation. The last time significant rain fell on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas was in 1943, when 0.21 inches were measured decades before the Strip or the massive holiday celebration was conceived.

At midnight, thousands outside the MGM Grand joined in a loud and boisterous countdown from 10, following along with the numbers that appeared on the casino’s sign.

The fireworks began moments after the crowd shouted “Happy New Year,” and the rain on the southern portion of the Strip held out for about 25 minutes after midnight. Farther north on the Strip, cars driving by Resorts World Las Vegas honked in celebration as the fireworks exploded.

Few umbrellas were seen among crowds on the Strip and downtown as tourists and locals said hello to the new year during “America’s Party 2023.” Eight resorts launched an eight-minute display of multi-colored pyrotechnics on the Strip, set to songs such as “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus and “23” by Sam Hunt.

Officials predicted that the crowd descending on Las Vegas could reach 400,000, about 100,000 more than last year’s estimate.

‘A new beginning’

Police had shut off vehicle traffic on the Strip by 7:45 p.m., as more and more pedestrians lined sidewalks. Vendors outside the Bellagio fountains called out in English and Spanish, hawking flashing accessories and $10 hot dogs.

Farther north on Las Vegas Boulevard, visitors began the evening with hot chocolate and selfies in front of the “Enchant on the Strip” Christmas display at Resorts World, complete with faux snow flurries and marching band drummers.

A thick stench of marijuana, which is illegal to smoke in public, wafted along the pedestrian bridge at Tropicana Avenue around 8:30 p.m. Jameil Avery, 46, was selling $1 waters and $2 sodas out of a cooler as a prelude to the partying that had just begun. Avery called 2022 “humbling” and said he hoped for a 2023 in which everybody comes together for a more peaceful world.

“New Year’s Eve is a new beginning, a new start,” he said.

About three hours before midnight, three men from Yuma, Arizona, wearing motorcycle helmets resembling disco balls got some laughs from the crowd outside The Mirage.

“Our girlfriends picked this out for us,” said Will Roberson, who was wearing a Pac-Man-themed suit, a helmet covered in disco ball glass and athletic sunglasses.

Martha Anderson, one of the girlfriends, joked that if the guys ended up falling during the celebration, she could rest assured that their heads would be protected.

In front of Caesars Palace during the final hour of 2022, a crowd gathered to dance and sing to music from Vicente Fernandez, a prominent Mexican songwriter. The music blared from a single speaker a family brought from their home, which a man held over his head while a conga line and dance circles formed around him. As the song ended, the crowd began chanting “Viva Mexico!”

Once it hit 2023 three hours to the east, visitors were seen walking down Las Vegas Boulevard while video calling with loved ones on the East Coast, blowing kisses and flashing glimpses of what 2022 still looked like from the west side of the country.

Live music, drones, mayoral kiss

A few miles away in downtown Las Vegas, visitors welcomed 2023 by remembering the ’90s at the “NYE Time of Your Life Festival,” with three stages of bands such as Bush, Sugar Ray and The Sugarhill Gang.

Related: Party on Fremont Street: Revelers say goodbye to 2022 — PHOTOS

By 8:30 p.m., Tim and Becky Cocchia were waiting for The Struts to play on the Third Street stage. The Phoenix couple were married the day before at the Vegas Weddings chapel downtown.

When asked why they chose Las Vegas for their nuptials, Tim Cocchia responded: “Why not? It’s the best place to come.”

More live music could be found on the Strip, with the rapper Pitbull bringing hundreds of partygoers to their feet about an hour before the new year inside the Fuego nightclub in Resorts World. Pitbull worked the stage, starting off the performance with “Don’t Stop the Party,” eliciting a chant from the crowd, which screamed back: “We came to party.”

Before the downtown festivities culminated with the Plaza’s fireworks show, the casino debuted a coordinated display of 150 flying, illuminated drones circling the skies and forming Las Vegas-themed shapes such as wine glasses, playing cards and the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

About 20 people gathered on the rooftop of the Plaza underneath the chilled, drizzling night sky to take photos, cheer, and exchange hugs and kisses in the first moments of 2023.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her husband took the stage at the Fremont Street Experience to address the crowd and welcome in another year, with former longtime Mayor Oscar Goodman flanked by two showgirls.

Oscar Goodman said that, as a first, he would give his wife a kiss for New Year’s Eve “like a real man.”

“I just hope that my tongue does not get stuck,” he joked.

The Goodmans shared one more kiss after counting down to midnight. Carolyn Goodman left the crowd with four words to shepherd in the new year.

“Now for the fun,” she said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Brett Clarkson, Sean Hemmersmeier, Jessica Hill, Lorraine Longhi, Jimmy Romo, McKenna Ross and Ricardo Torres-Cortez contributed to this report.

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