Published Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 | 12:02 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 | 1:18 a.m.
Tens of thousands of revelers filled the world-famous Las Vegas Boulevard to ring in the new year Saturday night. Counting backwards from 10, the crowd cheered as the clock struck midnight and fireworks launched from several casino rooftops along the Strip.
Wishing one another a happy new year, many people shared a kiss with a significant other, while others traded high fives and hugs. The streets began to clear out as people filed back into the casinos to drink, gamble and maybe even sleep a little.
Below, the Sun’s blog serves as a timeline of events and observations gathered by reporters and photographers from the New Year's Eve celebrations on the Strip and Fremont Street.
Metro Update: 1 a.m.
Metro Police arrested 41 within the Strip corridor as of 1 a.m.
These have been for minor misdemeanor offenses, police said.
Metro’s downtown area command, which covers the Fremont Street Experience, arrested four for similar offenses, police said.
Police arrested 10 people for DUI within Metro’s jurisdiction, authorities said.
The Clark County Fire Department received 65 calls of minor severity Saturday between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, fire officials said.
Fremont Street: 1 a.m.
The crowd has thinned significantly, some of the barriers around the casinos have come down and crews are starting to sweep up but there's still lots of people celebrating.
Judging by the mess on the ground, the crowd in front of the First Street stage had the most fun but there's still large groups at all three stages and the music is scheduled to continue for another hour.
And T-shirts are now selling for $5.
Fremont Street: Midnight
At midnight, a packed crowd on Fremont Street was treated to a five-minute show of fireworks -- both real and virtual -- under the Viva Vision canopy.
Despite the ceiling, fireworks shot off the support pillars and from strings hanging off the canopy were enough to leave party-goers spotted with ashes.
But nobody seemed to care. Most people were too busy kissing loved ones or blowing horns to notice the pyrotechnics, at least for the first minute.
And by 12:10 a.m. the crowd started to disperse while the tribute bands returned to stage. Those selling New Year's hats and shirts started having blowout sells, with prices as low as $10.
Happy New Year!: Midnight
The fireworks have launched into an eight and a half minute-show above the Strip. Crowds look to the sky at the spectacle.
The Strip 11:53 p.m.
Test fireworks just went off to cheers from the crowd. The street is filled with people.
Fremont Street: 11:50 p.m.
Ten minutes before midnight the Mayors Goodman came on stage at the Fremont Street Experience to praise downtown Las Vegas and toast 2012.
Current Mayor Carolyn Goodman pointed out that in 2012 the new Smith Center, new City Hall, Mob Museum and a upgraded Neon Boneyard are set to open.
Former Mayor Oscar Goodman leads the crowd in a toast and said “the best people in the world are here.”
The Via Vision canopy is now showing a year-in-review video. The crowd cheered when the death of Osama bin Laden was shown.
The Countdown: 11:50
Just 10 minutes until the fireworks are shot off the rooftops of eight Strip hotels and the crowds ring in 2012.
Those watching the Strip from afar can listen to the firework display’s music on FM stations KOMP 92.3 or KXPT 97.1.
The Strip: 11:30 p.m.
Here’s the scene between Planet Hollywood and the Bellagio: street jammed, guys with girls on their shoulders, occasional chants of "USA! USA!"
Many celebrants in suits and party dresses. Weather is mild.
The street is sticky in front of the drink stand at Paris, probably from people spilling Paris Punch. Prices for drinks: $8 for a 12-ounce plastic bottle of beer, $23 for a Paris Punch in an Eiffel Tower-shaped container, $7 for a Jager bomb.
The Strip: 11:20 p.m.
Ismael Martinez, 21, of Amarillo, Texas walked onto the Strip to party but ended up protesting.
“I’m here on vacation, but I ran into Occupy,” he said. “These people that believe in what I believe in.”
Martinez joined the dozen or so protesters across from CityCenter.
“Hey, I’m going to stand here for what I believe in,” he said.
While Martinez stood in a line of about a dozen protesters, some celebrators just stood in a line for the bathroom.
Outside on the Strip near CityCenter, 12 portable restrooms each had about 10 people in line behind it.
“We’ve been waiting for about five minutes, but when you’ve drank 72 ounces, five minutes is too long,” said Robert Sanchez, from Los Angeles.
Esmy Reynaga, also from Los Angeles, said she doesn’t mind waiting in line, “as long as they have toilet paper.”
The Strip: 11:15 p.m.
Vanessa Enriquev makes a quick buck along the Strip selling 2012 light-up glasses from a cart.
She spent $200 on the cart load and has almost run out.
“We’re on vacation, so I’m not going to stay home on New Year’s Eve,” the local teacher said of her winter break.
Enriquev hasn’t counted the money she’s made, but she thinks she got a return on her investment.
Metro Update: 11 p.m.
Metro Police arrest 23 from within the Strip corridor for minor misdemeanor offenses.
Metro’s downtown area command arrest two for similar offenses at the Fremont Street Experience.
As of an hour before midnight, the New Year’s Eve celebration remains orderly, police said.
CityCenter: 10:43 p.m.
Teal Hightower is being asked yet again if she actually is a new bride or is just dressed like one.
The answer: She and Markeese Hightower were married at 3 p.m. Saturday at the MGM Grand.
The couple, from Oklahoma City, planned the New Year's Eve wedding about four months ago.
Why Vegas? “Why not?” Markeese said.
Teal was attracting a lot of attention in her mini-wedding dress, veil and garter.
“We've been getting stopped every five minutes,” she said.
Fremont Street Experience: 9:40 p.m
It’s starting to get crowded at the Fremont Street Experience, especially around the three stages where tribute bands began playing at 7 p.m. and are scheduled to continue until 2 a.m.
Doug and Dawn Stephans decided to try downtown this year to mark their first New Year’s Eve as empty nesters.
They’ve done other holidays on the Strip, “so we figured we’d give downtown a try,” Doug said.
“And he wanted to see Rock Sugar,” Dawn added.
The alcohol is flowing everywhere. Many people have the usual plastic footballs, but the 4 Queens is serving beer in plastic cowboy boots, while across the street, under the Fremont casino canopy, a young lady in high-heeled boots had already had enough to drink at 9 p.m. that a male friend has to hold her up while a security guard watches closely.
The Strip: 9 p.m.
This New Year’s Eve, Strip dwellers are drinking alcoholic beverages from plastic containers shaped like footballs and guitars.
A city ordinance bans aluminum cans and glass bottles on the Strip and downtown areas during the festivities, according to Metro Police.
Most elevators, stairs and escalators to foot traffic bridges along the Strip have been closed, and at least two police officers are stationed at each entry way.
Flamingo Road east of the Strip: 8:36 p.m.
People squished into a Regional Transit Authority double-decker bus on the 202 route.
Passengers at stops near McLeod Drive and Eastern Avenue were being told to wait for other buses, and it was difficult for riders to squeeze through to the exits.
“We are people, not sardines,” said a passenger who apparently felt the driver was not allowing riders enough time to get to the doors.
Fremont Street Experience: 8:33 p.m
Despite being closed off, Fremont Street still has all the usual characters: Showgirls, pirates, spray paint artists, impersonators, a contortionist and nearly naked men. Plus the older ladies who were already having a hard time walking straight at 8 p.m., lots of security and police.
The crowd is just getting going. It’s going to be a long night for the energetic employee toting a broom and dust pan he'll use to collect every piece of confetti.
Richard Chavira is pushing his 80-year-old mom in a wheelchair through the crowd.
She's wearing 2012 glasses with flashing lights and "she loves it," Chavira exclaims.
They came to Las Vegas, along with a younger niece, from their home in Barstow, Calif., despite not being able to get a room at the sold-out Golden Nugget when he tried making reservations a month ago.
"We always used to go to the Strip, but it's so crowded," he said. "There's room to walk here and it's a blast. I'll never go to the Strip (for New Years) again."
The Strip: around 8:30 p.m.
A procession of 12 people wheeling suitcases rush through the Strip crowd heading in the direction of the Venetian.
The group from San Jose, Calif., landed at McCarran International Airport around 8 p.m. and are trying to make table reservation at Tao.
“We’re going to be fashionably late,” Barney Reed said about the airport.
Part of the problem was the lack of convenient transportation, Reed said.
“We tried to take a cab, but we couldn’t so we took a limo instead,” said Reed, adding that it cost his party $200.
Reed said the fare was worth it.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Reed said. “We haven’t done a New Year’s in Vegas yet.”
The Strip: around 8:30 p.m.
A group calling themselves “street preachers” stood on the Strip brandishing signs that read, “Repent,” and, “Warning Hell Awaits You.”
Nearly 100 people who were out celebrating New Year’s Eve surrounded about a dozen of these street preachers standing outside Caesars Palace.
Over a bullhorn one preacher yelled, “Put down the Bud Light and pick up a Bible.”
The group of preachers and members of the crowd began a heckling match.
“We’re out here telling them about God’s judgment,” said a street preacher who identified himself as Mario. “This is Sin City; this place is wicked and vile.”
Mario said his group has traveled from all over the country and that it’s their second time in Las Vegas.
“It’s a little confrontational,” said Edie, a bystander who did not give her last name. “I think they should be sharing God’s love instead of this message.”
Edie said she just moved to Las Vegas and decided to spend her first New Year’s on the Strip.
“I don’t have a beer in my hand. I’m here to celebrate,” she said.
Other celebrators like Meysam Aghorlikhani, 28, of Topeka, Kan., found the preachers amusing.
“I’m just partying this New Year’s Eve,” said Aghorlikhani, who took a confetti gun, held it down by his pelvic area and shot the confetti out toward the street preachers.
“I love them; they give me a chance to put a smile on all these peoples’ faces,” he said.
The Wynn: around 8:30 p.m.
Travelers from all over the U.S. and the world have taken to the Strip.
Andre Tavlik and his wife, Elvira Drubeisky, were outside the Wynn celebrating New Year’s Eve.
The couple traveled from Sydney, Australia, and it’s Drubeisky’s first time in Las Vegas.
“It’s very different than where we live,” Drubeisky said. “Were going to look around, have fun and have a few drinks.”
A man has passed out and lays on his back on the street outside the Wynn, about three and a half hours before midnight.
Four of the man’s friends grab his legs and arms to pick him up.
The men then proceed to walk north down the Strip carrying the man by his limbs.
Fremont Street: 7:53 p.m.
Three distinguished ladies exited the main doors of the Golden Nugget onto the Fremont Street Experience.
Despite the rock music filling the air and the KISS impersonators behind them, these ladies are ready to celebrate in a classic style with fur coats and plastic party hats.
“We locals want to support the local economy, especially on New Year’s Eve," said Evelyn Cannestra, a proud “82 and a half.”
“We think this is a fantastic light show, all these good-looking Metro policemen are going to encourage people to behave and people are spending money, supporting our local businesses,” she added.
Nelly Segal, who has lived here for nine years after leaving Russia, agreed. Last year they went to the Strip.
“We liked it but there were too many people,” the 77-year-old said. “But this is very nice, very nice. Much better than Russia.”
They plan to enter 2012 inside the Golden Nugget, where they are staying. But first a round of band and people watching on the street.
The Venetian: 7:43 p.m.
Tao Nightclub doesn’t open until 9 p.m., but a line of 50 people and counting is growing outside its doors.
Celine Meier, a 21-year-old from Switzerland, has already found her spot in line.
She and a friend paid $150 a ticket to get into the club where celebrity Kim Kardashian is expected to be partying into the New Year.
Meier said she came for the club, not for Kardashian.
“We heard from friends it was really nice so we came to Tao,” Meier said.
But others decided to beat the crowd in attempts to see the reality TV star.
“I want to see Kim’s face,” said Arlene Cabrera, a Kardashian fan from San Diego.
It’s the second time Arlene and her husband, Jeff Cabrera, have spent New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas.
Jeff said they come for the entertainment and the restaurants.
“You can pack a lot into a weekend,” he said.
Fremont Street Experience: 7:23 p.m.
With five hours to midnight, there's still plenty of room for revelers at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas, although the area directly in front of the Third Street Stage is getting crowded as Fan Halen kicks off the fourth-annual TributePalooza.
The concert is visually interrupted when people soar above on the zip line -- or "human monorail" as the lead singer calls it.
The famous street is closed to the regular public and admission -- $30 this year -- is charged. Mayor Carolyn Goodman will be on stage later tonight to count down to the new year and fireworks on the giant Viva Vision canopy.
Fremont Street Experience: 7:04 p.m.
People have begun to arrive at the Fremont Street Experience as tribute bands take to stages set up under more than 12 million lights of the Viva Vision canopy.
Planet Hollywood: 6:58 p.m.
Many of the Miracle Mile Shops inside the Planet Hollywood are closed, but the mall is cluttered with shoppers. Stores like dress boutique S.Y.L.K are flooded with customers buying last-minute outfits before the New Year.
The Strip: 6:50 p.m.
Strip traffic has been closed. The street has not been open to pedestrian traffic. Crowds remain on the Strip's sidewalk.
The Strip: 6:21 p.m.
The roadways are clearing up on the Strip as a few cars can still be spotted traveling along the boulevard.
Metro Police cars and officers are out and about conducting the Strip's traffic closure.
The Strip: 5:30 p.m.
Chain link fences partition the street from the sidewalk.
A group of four young men are running around randomly embracing strangers and carrying a sign that reads, “Free Hugs.”
Andrew Ferrera, of Los Angeles is one to the youths giving out hugs. “People like us all around the world are encouraging people to connect,” he said. “It’s very important especially in 2012 when people think the world is going to end. The world is not going to end.”
The Strip: 5:13 p.m.
The Strip is slowly filling up with crowds. Plenty of families are out and about. Many people are already donning pink, blue and multicolored New Year’s hats and shimmering tiaras.
The traffic hasn't been closed off yet and is abnormally packed for a Saturday. Cars traveling on Las Vegas Boulevard sat in slow moving and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Getting ready to party
Tonight 2012 will receive a warm welcome from dozens of celebrities, thousands of fireworks and more than 314,000 people partying up and down the Strip and Fremont Street.
Las Vegas Sun reporters and photographers will be capturing the sights and sounds of a New Year’s Eve celebration filled with fireworks exploding, Champagne bubbling and couples smooching as the clock hits midnight.