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Revelers celebrate new year with downtown rock festival

Fremont Street NYE

Leila Navidi

Stephanie Wilcox and John Schenk of Washington, D.C., laugh while looking at a photo just taken of them during the New Year’s Eve Tribute Palooza at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 31, 2010.

Updated Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 | 1:34 a.m.

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Time-Lapse: New Year's Eve 2010 Fireworks

Ring in 2011 with this countdown and time-lapse of the New Year's Eve fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip.

Fremont Street NYE

Lorann Watts, from left, and Elma Calderon of Milwaukee and Martha Picemo and Al Picemo of Temecula, Calif., enjoy Heart Alive, a Heart tribute band, during New Year's Eve Tribute Palooza at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. Launch slideshow »

New Year's Eve 2010 fireworks

KSNV coverage of New Year's Eve 2010 fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip.

Fireworks exploded downtown while their digital counterparts spread across the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience, marking the close of 2010 and ushering in the first seconds of the new year.

Confetti rained down and people kissed and shouted to welcome 2011.

Before the final countdown, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman raised his martini glass to the city he has served for 12 years as he celebrated his last New Year’s Eve in office.

“It gets no better than this,” he said as the audience cheered. “And every year, it gets better and better.”

Goodman then toasted to the new year, asking for “the greatest year Las Vegas has ever had. A year of health, happiness and prosperity for each and every one of you.”

The canopy’s video screen highlighted the year in review in the minutes leading up to midnight. Scenes from the past year — from the earthquake in Haiti to the Lakers’ latest NBA championship to the November elections — played overhead, followed by some of the familiar faces who died in 2010. With 15 seconds to go, the countdown began and thousands lifted their glasses to the sky.

Chuck Lagrone, 31, and Becca Deboer, 21, shared a long kiss as streamers fell to the floor after midnight. The local couple, celebrating their first New Year’s Eve together, said they were looking forward to whatever 2011 brings.

“I’m totally excited,” Lagrone said. “As long as next year is better than this year and I’m with her.”

Less than 10 minutes later, the amplifiers fired back up and the band Aeromyth retook the 3rd Street Stage, rocking the crowd into the early hours of 2011 as part of the Tribute Palooza New Year’s Eve rock festival.

Heart Alive, playing classic cuts of Heart, started the festivities at 6 p.m.

Tourists Kevin and Gae Rose of Alberta, Canada, belted out the chorus to the Zombies’ 1968 hit “Time of the Season” as they walked past the Four Queens casino, where the song was playing over a loudspeaker. Kevin Rose said they came out “looking for a good time.”

Both “old enough to know better” and former “flower children,” Kevin said, the couple, although they knew it had been a tough year for many people, were happy with how 2010 had panned out for them.

“It’s been a good year,” he said. “We’d like to hope the next one will be better.”

Goodman made his first appearance of the night about an hour before the new year. Accompanied by his wife, Carolyn, and two showgirls, he shook hands with revelers.

Celebrity lookalikes — Michael Jackson, KISS and a three-foot version of Mr. T — took pictures with the crowd, many of whom donned their own costumes and party masks as the volume grew under the Fremont canopy.

Kazoos sounded as Jim Vignato, lead singer of the Styx tribute band Rockin' the Paradise, rallied the crowd from the 1st Street Stage.

“Who’s actually from Las Vegas?” Vigtano asked as cheers and whistles rang out in response.

“Now I know where the party is,” he yelled as the first beats of “Too Much Time on My Hands” banged out on the bass drum for one of the group’s last numbers.

Minutes later, the crowd sang along to Don McLean’s “American Pie” as icons from the 60s and 70s passed on the video screen above.

Sean and Kim Cory, visiting from Idaho, said they wanted to stay away from the Strip and Fremont Street proved a good alternative.

“This is so cool,” Kim Cory said as the next bands — Fan Halen, Bonfire and No Duh — warmed up about 8 p.m.

As for the departing year, Sean Cory said, the “tough economic times” will probably linger in everyone’s memory.

“The jobs have been hit pretty hard,” he said. “People are hurting.”

But with 2011 just a few hours away, he said he hopes the world faces fewer crises — natural and man-made — than in 2010.

The new year should also bring a renewed sense of responsibility as Americans try to turn the economy around, Kim Cory said.

“I’d like people to have more awareness of their spending and where the money’s going,” she said. “We have to keep up with the global economy.”

As the gigantic clock behind him inched toward midnight, Swan Montegomery, lead singer of Led Zepagain, said, "I’m getting a good vibe and a lot of love from this crowd.”

Montegomery’s lead guitarist dropped the first chords of “Rock N Roll,” and the crowd went crazy.

Elsewhere, the Red Not Chili Peppers and Rolling the Stones began their sets.

Mike and Natalie Ling, both 31 and hailing from the United Kingdom, jammed on plastic guitars, which happened to be filled with beer.

They had been visiting friends in San Diego for Christmas, Mike Ling said, and decided to check out Las Vegas for the new year instead of heading home. They found what they were looking for on Fremont Street, as they “prefer rock ’n’ roll — real music — to that dance stuff” playing on the Strip, he said.

In the coming year, he said, they had some big plans.

“We’re buying a house and starting a family,” he said with a smile while his wife planted a kiss on his cheek.

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