The night sky sparkled at midnight as more than 80,000 fireworks exploded over Las Vegas, welcoming the new year — and the new decade.
In true Vegas style, there was no shortage of colorful characters on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas as 2019 came to an end: Showgirls with towering feathers, street performers in Kiss attire and women in flapper costumes so dazzling you might question whether the incoming year was 1920 or 2020.
Thanks to mild weather on Tuesday night, the pyrotechnic show went off without a hitch — a stark difference from last year’s celebrations, when blustering, gusty winds had threatened to put a wrench in the fireworks show for the first time.
This year’s festivities drew an estimated 333,000 people to Las Vegas for “America’s Party.”
Among them were Chris and Sabrina Nettles, who had traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to tie the knot on New Year’s Eve at the Chapel of the Flowers, a long-standing wedding chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Sabrina and Chris Nettles came to Vegas from Toledo, Ohio to get married on New Year’s Eve. They said they’d been planning a big wedding in Miami, but decided it would be more special to come here and celebrate, just the two of them. #Vegas2020 pic.twitter.com/LGr82q1j5R
— Alexis Egeland (@alexis_egeland) January 1, 2020
After months of planning a big wedding in Miami, the couple decided to go with something more intimate.
“It was just about us and not about everybody else,” Chris Nettles said, standing alongside his bride, who by around 7:30 p.m. was still holding on to her bouquet of white and pink flowers.
The party theme this year, “The Big 20,” was a nod to the annual extravaganza’s 20th anniversary. It featured a soundtrack of popular hits from the past two decades as the fireworks shot off for more than eight minutes from the MGM Grand, Aria, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and The Strat.
“We’re going to see the craziest, most exciting scene in the world,” Naomi Turner, a Las Vegas resident who was dressed as a showgirl in lime green fur, feathers and sequins, predicted hours before midnight. “Nothing is like Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve.”
— Kevin M. Cannon (@kmcannonphoto) January 1, 2020
Preparation for the pyrotechnic Strip show, produced by Fireworks by Grucci with Las Vegas Events and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, began a year ago. And installation of the fireworks required 60 pyrotechnicians working more than 3,000 man-hours.
America’s Party Downtown
A few miles north, a full moon shined over downtown Las Vegas at the Fremont Street Experience thanks to its $32 million upgraded Viva Vision canopy.
— Chase Stevens (@CSStevensphoto) January 1, 2020
Unveiled Tuesday evening as part of “America’s Party Downtown,” the canopy at times featured a cloudy night sky and a mesmerizing full moon on the large video screen. Under the canopy, partygoers danced to live music as silhouettes of zip liners sped by.
In the sea of eccentric costumes was Jack Rodman Knowles and his girlfriend, Dawn Marie Butler, of British Columbia.
It was their first New Year’s Eve celebration in Las Vegas.
Dressed as Elvis, Knowles showed off his dance moves outside the Golden Nugget to the delight of partygoers.
— Shea Johnson (@Shea_LVRJ) January 1, 2020
“Best freedom party ever,” Butler said.
By contrast, Sylvia and Rudy Solis are seasoned Las Vegas New Year’s Eve partygoers.
Every year, they travel to meet family in Las Vegas to ring in the new year, considering themselves “experts” on how to celebrate.
Pacing herself in the early evening hours, Sylvia Solis, 56, said she planned on heading down to the Strip later Tuesday for fireworks and then back to Fremont Street to finish off the night.
As of midnight, at least 12 people had been hospitalized from the Strip and the Fremont Street Experience for apparent drug use or “too much alcohol,” according to Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa, who was stationed at the county’s multi-agency communication center away from the Strip.
He said one other person was hospitalized for “an unknown medical reason.”
“From my vantage point, this year is comparable to last year, which was fairly quiet,” Pappa said as midnight approached. “We’ve had a limited number of hospital transports, especially considering the size of the crowd.”
Between 6 and 11:30 p.m., “no significant incidents” required emergency assistance from the Las Vegas Fire Department, according to the agency. But one person was taken to University Medical Center after a “serious fireworks related incident” about 11:30 p.m. in the east valley, according to a tweet from the department. Further information was not immediately available.
About 1,700 officers, some uniformed and others in plainclothes, and other personnel, including members of the National Guard, were deployed this year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
— Cassie Soto (@_CassieSoto) January 1, 2020
Federal, state and local law enforcement — including Metro, the U.S. Marshals Service, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and Secret Service — came together on New Year’s Eve, as they do each year, to monitor and control activity on the Strip.
This year, Southern Nevada law enforcement, having outgrown their previous New Year’s Eve command post at the Nevada Highway Patrol’s southern area command, relocated to the data center operator Switch in southwest Las Vegas.
Throughout the night, some partygoers stopped to thank the officers and National Guard members spaced every 10 to 20 yards on and around the Strip.
Turner, the woman dressed as a showgirl in lime green, said she was glad to see a show of force by law enforcement on the Strip.
“It’s for our protection,” she said. “It’s nice to have safety along with the most exciting day of the year.”
Meanwhile, some of the more industrious revelers on the Strip made use of the pharmacies and convenience stores along the Strip to gather party supplies, including one man just outside a CVS pharmacy.
He lifted his jacket to reveal what at first appeared to be a weightlifting belt.
Instead, it was a belt fitted with slots that he filled with an entire 12-pack of beer cans.
Roads began closing around 5 p.m. Tuesday around the Strip in preparation for the celebrations. By 6 p.m., Metro had shut down all streets leading onto the Strip between Sahara Avenue and Mandalay Bay Road, with traffic cleared shortly after.
— Mick Akers (@mickakers) January 1, 2020
Walkways, elevators and escalators were set to close at 7 p.m. and reopen by 12:15 a.m.
The Interstate 15 offramps to eastbound Flamingo Road, Tropicana Avenue and Spring Mountain Road and all other streets leading onto Las Vegas Boulevard were set to begin reopening around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Celebrations on the Strip were expected to subside by 1:30 a.m., with street sweepers set to begin cleaning Las Vegas Boulevard from south to north at 2 a.m.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.
Contact Rio Lacanlale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Alexis Egeland, Mary Hynes, David Ferrara, Shea Johnson, Rory Appleton, Mick Akers and Alex Chhith contributed to this report.