Maybe it was the sight of a man holding a pair of rose gold balloons comprising the number 21.
Maybe it was the voice of someone else shouting to him, “Yeah, 21! Get drunk, woo!” in a large crowd outside the Miracle Mile Shops.
Or maybe it was the man in a Harley-Davidson shirt, alone in a chair and taking in the sun in the middle of Roman Plaza outside Caesars Palace, shoes off, feet out and Bud Light and Diet Pepsi bottles at his right side.
Were it not for the masks and ever-present signage reminding visitors to stay 6 feet apart, one could be forgiven for walking down the Strip on Saturday afternoon and thinking it was just another March weekend.
“I took a few pictures to send to my son in Chicago, and I said, ‘I can’t believe there are this many people out,’” said 55-year-old Las Vegas resident Laura Amendala, sitting about 4 p.m. in the Linq Promenade and wearing two masks. “I couldn’t even get into the Bellagio parking lot to see the botanical garden. It was filled to capacity.”
Crowds flooded the Strip on Saturday, just two days before casino capacity restrictions increase to 50 percent from 35 percent on Monday. Many guests inside casinos and shops Saturday stood shoulder-to-shoulder or in close proximity to one another, though guests largely heeded the “please wear a mask” signs present at multiple Strip properties, including Paris Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Resort, Miracle Mile Shops and Bellagio.
One woman with a mask around her neck just before 3 p.m. inside The Cosmopolitan received a reminder from two suited employees to move her mask over her face. She abided.
Thousands walked the Strip sidewalks, every other person or so wearing a mask over their nose and mouth. Lines formed outside multiple Linq Promenade establishments, notably the walk-up booze counters and an In-N-Out Burger. The smell of cigarettes and weed permeated the air.
Amendala, sitting alongside a fountain in the crowded promenade, noted her discomfort at the thought of pulling down her masks to eat or drink.
“It’s scary just because mask compliance is an issue,” she said.
Yolando Hagwood, a 54-year-old Orange County resident, was visiting Las Vegas for the first time since August 2019, he said outside Planet Hollywood. He has a timeshare and typically comes three or four times each year, but had stayed away until his weeklong vacation that ends Sunday.
He, too, was wearing two masks.
“I think most businesses are trying to adhere and still let people have a good time,” Hagwood said. “You can’t tackle people. You’re gonna see people with no masks. You’re gonna see people not social distancing. But you just try to do your part.”