Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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Las Vegas welcomes 2018 with fireworks, unprecedented security


Christopher DeVargas

Las Vegas revelers enjoy the New Year’s fireworks celebration, early Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

Updated Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 | 8:08 a.m.

New Year's Eve 2017

The fireworks of America's Party 2018 explode over the Las Vegas Strip to welcome the new year in this view from the rooftop of the Convention Center Marriott in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. More than 80,000 pyrotechnic effects are were lauched from the rooftops of MGM Grand, Aria, Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Stratosphere. CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau Launch slideshow »

The fireworks are over on the Las Vegas Strip, and the eight-minute show launched from seven casino rooftops to welcome 2018 was spectacular. Same for the celebration in Las Vegas.

A new year is here and it arrived as Las Vegas officials had hoped — with few problems.

More than 300,000 visitors congregated on the Las Vegas Strip to celebrate, and the festivities were mostly jubilant and safe. Emergency management officials labeled the evening as “very quiet.”

There were only eight misdemeanor arrests and nine citations issued on the Strip, police said. On Fremont Street, police reported three misdemeanor arrests and one citation.

The increased police activity in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 mass shooting was noticeable all night with Metro Police officers deployed in force on the Strip.

Additionally, the National Guard doubled the personnel it normally deploys to 300 soldiers.

"One bad incident is not going to deter us from having a good time," Honolulu resident Pettra Stark, who planned her trip after the Oct. 1 tragedy, said while standing underneath the massive video canopy on Fremont Street.

For Stark, the heavy presence of armed officers was reassuring. But not everyone felt the same way, including Adrian Dominguez, who traveled for the festivities with 10 other relatives.

"It's not pleasant to see so many officers," Dominguez, a resident of the northern Mexico border city of Ciudad Juarez. "They are everywhere."

After, everyone worked to get the Strip back to normal.

Moving walkways, elevators and escalators on Las Vegas Boulevard resume at 12:15 a.m., then cleanup ensued.

Nevada Highway Patrol announced at about 11:30 p.m. that traffic was moving smoothly along the Interstate 15 resort corridor, with no crashes reported during the evening.

We had journalists on the Strip and in downtown all night. Below are some of their observations.

• • •

1:15 a.m.

Thousands of Las Vegas Strip revelers celebrated the new year with fireworks and fanfare, counting down from 10 to the beginning of 2018 and blowing horns and clapping as the clock struck midnight.

But the following minutes proved to be trying to many near the center of the Strip.

Outside Paris, attendees cried, shouted and begged to use the bathroom as crowds stood motionless for the better part of 15 to 20 minutes after the "Fireworks by Grucci" production ended with a gran finale at 12:08 a.m.

One such attendee, 29-year-old Deanna Lopez of Los Angeles, called the delay "frustrating and incredible."

"I didn't imagine it ending like this," Lopez said as tears streamed down her face.

12:15 a.m.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodwin and former Mayor Oscar Goodman took the main stage at Fremont Street Experience about 10 minutes before midnight. After praising the city's celebrations, a year-in-review video played on the gigantic screen. A video highlighted key sports moments involving the Vegas Golden Knights and the Oakland Raiders and paid tribute to celebrities lost last year.

Toward the end, #VegasStrong flashed on the screen shortly before the countdown began. The fireworks show was short but colorful. The crowd roared and Goodman concluded the night by saying, "Happy new year everyone ... we are Las Vegas strong."

The crowd began to disperse as remaining revelers danced to Zowie Bowie.

11:40 p.m.

Livonia, Mich., residents Eileen Marcus, 31 and Brian Sanford, 40, smoked marijuana strains of THC Bomb and Gorilla Glue #4 as they walked up Las Vegas Boulevard toward Flamingo Road. The couple, who hold medical marijuana cards in their home state, said they — like many others on the Strip tonight — ventured out with their pot because "there's nowhere else to smoke it."

"We tried doing it in parking garages, but after a while it was just a little over the top," Sanford said. "I think police have bigger issues to worry about."

11:30 p.m.

At Aria, a temporary fence was set up at the entrance to the property and visitors were funneled through a single gate. The security measure did not appear to put a damper on festivities inside the resort, however. The crowd inside was vibrant.

11:20 p.m.

Dancing in front of the Double Barrel Roadhouse restaurant, Medellín, Colombia, residents Héctor Larrazabal, 27, and girlfriend Nuria Benítez, 23, stepped in rhythm on Las Vegas Boulevard to a merengue song blaring from the restaurant. They were joined by at least six other couples to turn the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Park Avenue into a Latin dance fiesta.

Los Angeles resident Martin Rosario carried his girlfriend Rebeca Morales down the street as Morales sought to stay warm bundled up in scarfs and a beanie hat.

Most interviewed New Year's Eve visitors said Las Vegas temperatures in the high 40s were not interfering with their fun.

"It's not ideal, but it's bearable," Morales said.

11 p.m.

People continue making their way inside the Fremont Street Experience for the last stretch of the night before 2018. Revelers sing along and dance to the recorded music of hometown heroes The Killers, which is accompanied by a visual show of the band on the canopy, while another live music act sound checks.

10:45 p.m.

Bay Area resident Raj Gupta, 32, and three friends celebrated their third-straight New Year's Eve on the Strip, toasting with plastic cups and vuvuzelas. The New Delhi, India, natives, who are lodged at the Stratosphere, called Las Vegas the "place to be" on New Year's Eve.

10:20 p.m.

The three live music stages at the Fremont Street Experience have substantial crowds of partiers gyrating and raising their drinks. This was most evident onstage on the west end while a band covered “Footloose.” On the east stage, when The Tony Marques Band asked if the crowd was drunk, it roared back with a “NO!”

10 p.m.

At the MGM Grand, it appeared that the minimum bets for blackjack had been set at $25, with craps at $10.

9:55 p.m.

Revelers may notice new bollards installed along the Las Vegas Strip to improve pedestrian safety.

Crews in December finished installing nearly 800 of the steel posts along Las Vegas Boulevard.

The bollards are 4 feet tall and anchored by underground steel frames. County officials say the posts can stop a flatbed truck traveling 55 mph.

Altogether, the posts will shield about 3,200 feet of sidewalk.

9:45 p.m.

If you are too impaired to drive after celebrating tonight in downtown, Las Vegas and Lyft are teaming up to help get you home.

Use the Lyft code ”NYELV” to redeem a free credit, and leave your car in city-owned lots without being ticketed until noon Jan. 1, the city posted on its Twitter page.

9:40 p.m.

The increased security presence was immediately evident for revelers taking the Las Vegas Monorail. At the Westgate Las Vegas station, security guards manned the entrance. The monorail was crowded and festive, with trains running every five minutes — more frequently than on a normal Sunday night. The monorail, which runs from SLS Las Vegas to the MGM Grand, will be in operation overnight.

9:30 p.m.

Sou Mak, 25, of Calcutta, India, posed with six friends as the group celebrated its second-straight New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip.

Mak, who moved to San Jose, Calif., in 2016, called Las Vegas "a dream" for ringing in the new year.

"There's nowhere else we'd rather be," he said. "Las Vegas is a special place."

Santa Ana, Calif., resident Larry Nguyen found out the hard way of Metro Police's strict policy against bags larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by six inches. Pulled from his family as he walked on Las Vegas Boulevard past the New York-New York resort, Nguyen was asked to empty a Nike backpack before police threw it out.

Standing with his wife and a group of family friends after losing the backpack, Nguyen said he hadn't celebrated New Year's in Las Vegas in over a decade and wasn't aware of the policy.

"My son will probably be upset because it was his, but I guess that's how it is," he said.

Metro officer John Citelli, standing behind the barricade, said police have removed over a dozen such bags since New Year's Eve crowds began picking up just after 8 p.m.

"There are signs everywhere saying not to bring them," Citelli said. "It's up to people to read that and follow the rules."

Those caught with backpacks and staying in Strip hotels were first asked to return the bags to their rooms, Citelli said.

9:20 p.m.

For retired siblings Michael Thomas Sr. and Jackie Dent of Lancaster, Calif., New Year's Eve in Las Vegas is becoming a tradition — this is Dent's fourth year, while Thomas, although shy about it, has been coming here since the 1970s, he said.

Thomas wore a top hat with a gold-pattern suit jacket, while Dent topped her head with a "Happy New Year" crown. Is this year different than others? "It's a little bit wilder," Thomas said in an elated tone.

9:10 p.m.

This Des Moines, Iowa, married couple have been planning their outfits, which include silver-colored, sequin-patterned, matching jackets, for a couple of months, said Krystal Merrifield. She and husband Jason are in Las Vegas celebrating his recent 44th birthday.

It's not their first time in Las Vegas, but it is their first New Year's Eve here.

"It's pretty awesome," Krystal Merrifield said. They planned to "walk around, people watching and listen to bands."

9 p.m.

The ball drops from Times Square in New York is live streamed on the downtown Las Vegas screen as the East Coast welcomes 2018.

8:55 p.m.

The walkways are getting more challenging to navigate as revelers continue to trickle in, drinking, dancing and enjoying the variety of acts, such as a man quickly painting pictures of iconic musicians on large canvasses as music booms through the speakers.

During a break in music, a prerecorded video of prominent musicians flashes on the large canopy screen, wishing Las Vegas a Happy New Year. The crowd reciprocates with cheering.

8:45 p.m.

Tourists speaking Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin are among dozens of visitors passing through the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue as the New Year's Eve crowd gets thicker on the Strip.

Among them, 28-year-old Helena Cano from Madrid said she was visiting Las Vegas for the first time to experience "the lights and excitement" offered by one of the world's most popular New Year's Eve destinations.

"I think it's something everybody should experience once," Cano said, standing with boyfriend Gonzalo Muñoz.

The two wore thick jackets to stay warm in the mild nighttime temperatures; they snapped a selfie in front of the MGM Grand before heading on their way.

Meanwhile, Metro Police Officer Brock Williams was one of six officers stationed behind a barrier on the north end of the intersection, preparing to move it back to clear space as more tourists filled the street closer to the midnight hour.

A recent graduate of Metro's training academy, Williams said he had seen "no trouble" through the first several hours officers were stationed on the Strip.

7 p.m.

The downtown crowd is settling in and weighing options on how to best be entertained. Drinks are flowing at the outdoor bars, and several cover bands are playing the various stages underneath the canopy. One of them is performing a rendition of Bon Jovi songs, including “You Give Love a Bad Name and “It’s my life.”

Hotel security is posted at the casino entrances.

A man and a woman wave at a Metro Police officer stationed on a platform. A rifle hangs from his shoulder as he waves back.

A couple of men approach a group of officers to shake their hands.

6:05 p.m.

The Fremont Street Experience is open for business, and revelers begin to trickle in while SlotZilla flyers buzz above.

The security apparatus at the entrance includes metal detectors and bag checks. Metro Police presence is spotted immediately. The agency has teams of officers stationed throughout. Some are armed with rifles and others are on elevated platforms. Las Vegas Marshals and Fremont Street Experience security accompany them — dog handlers are making their rounds around the premises.

There is at least one first-aid station, and some medics are on bicycles.

The Sun’s Ric Anderson, Ricardo Cortez-Torres, Chris Kudialis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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