LAS VEGAS (AP) — The already illuminated Las Vegas Strip greeted 2016 with an extra glittery glow from fireworks exploding on cue atop several casino rooftops.
New Year’s Eve was expected to pack in 332,000 people on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown’s Fremont Street bundling up for the chilly occasion.
“It’s freezing cold,” said Griselle Fernandez, who along with 17 relatives from three families made a last minute trip to Las Vegas from their home in Texas, signing up for the outdoor ice-rink experience at The Cosmopolitan.
It isn’t easy topping an eight-minute New Year’s firework spectacle. But inside the swanky casino-hotel, singer Bruno Mars had the vast majority of The Cosmopolitan’s crowd dancing along to hits “Treasure” and “Marry You” and a medley of covers, the dance floor physically undulating with the crowd’s steps. Elsewhere, Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay and Nikki Minaj at Drai’s Nightclub kept revelers entertained inside the casinos before and after midnight.
New Year’s Eve is worth an estimated $228 million to the destination, and its 149,086 hotel rooms were almost fully booked, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
It’s worth quadruple a regular night of tips for 36-year-old Mike Powell who dressed in a glittery Elvis jumpsuit to pose for photos and collect tips with two other Elvises and a man dressed as a “Hangover” movie character.
Some revelers walking along the Las Vegas Strip wore comically large beads around their necks, light-up Viking horn helmets and sipped from gold plastic “Bling Bottles” hanging from their necks, or in Raymond Cifuentes’ case, all at once.
For Diana Currier, it was a first firework-filled New Year’s Eve celebration for the self-described workaholic from Yuma, Arizona. Currier said she was “excited beyond belief.”
For Christa and Bill Cooper of Kentucky, the brand new bride and groom spent their first New Year’s Eve as husband and wife dancing their first dance in a wide-open Las Vegas Boulevard intersection with a bit of Frank Sinatra crooning in the distance.
For Las Vegas police, it was the first time uniformed officers, including some wearing military-style vests and headsets, walked among the crowd of pedestrians in light of heightened security concerns globally. Nearly 1,000 uniformed police were expected to patrol the Las Vegas Strip, while another 300 to 400 would watch downtown’s Fremont Street.
Police had urged visitors walking the Las Vegas Strip to leave their bulky bags and strollers at home or voluntarily cooperate when asked to have their bags searched throughout the night.
The specter of terrorism and a heavier police presence didn’t appear to faze revelers.
“The terrorists are not going to try and hit something like this,” said Teresa Fauscette of Tennessee. “I’ll lay $500 on the line.”
The 29-year-old said she wasn’t one bit scared.
Neither was Robert Tafoya of Salt Lake City, Utah who sat on a wall and read the book, “SuperFreakonomics” until the time for fireworks neared. “The threat of terrorism is so remote,” he said.
The Strip became a wide-open pedestrian mall for the evening, with access to the casino-hotels along the corridor limited, in some cases, to hotel guests and ticket holders for events and concerts that included performances from Las Vegas regulars Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Olivia Newton-John.
Celebrants in some cases paid as much as $15,000 to watch the hottest acts from a reserved table with a bevy of alcohol. But those not in need of the real thing musically found a host of tribute bands on Fremont Street, including Fan Halen, No Duh and the Red Not Chili Peppers.
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