LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas rung in the new year with fireworks, big-name DJs and hardly a hitch even with an estimated 300,000 visitors in town, police said Sunday.
There was also plenty of love and marriage, including a spur-of-the-moment wedding for Tempe residents Laura Atayde and Daniel Saavedra just after midnight at the Little Neon Chapel in downtown Las Vegas. They decided to elope in the new year for tax purposes, but also because after eight years together, the time was right.
“I love her and she loves me,” said Saavedra, 30, a police officer who met Atayde when he was in the Marines. “We woke up this morning and we decided let’s drive 5 ½ hours from the Phoenix area, and here we are.”
Aside from newlyweds strolling the sidewalks, Las Vegas’ celebration featured some of the biggest names in music holding court in the nightclubs and an eight-minute fireworks show that launched from the tops of half a dozen high-rise casinos.
Officer Larry Hadfield said there were an undetermined number of arrests for minor incidents during the night, but no major events to speak of. Clark County firefighters, who serve the Las Vegas Strip, said 26 people from the tourist corridor were transported to hospitals but none of the injuries were life-threatening.
Local police joined forces with National Guard, Secret Service and FBI agents to protect Sin City at a time when terrorism was on many tourists’ minds.
“We are very concerned about safety,” said 35-year-old tourist Jonathan Potwana, who was visiting Las Vegas from South Africa and snapped a picture with a group of uniformed officers milling outside of downtown bars. “When we see visible policing, we feel much safer.”
The heart of the Las Vegas Strip was closed to vehicle traffic starting Saturday evening so pedestrians could wander the famous boulevard in the misty weather that hovered in the mid-40s.
Police ramped up barriers this year to prevent cars from reaching partiers, and a new county ordinance prohibited large bags, strollers, backpacks and glass bottles on the Strip for the party.
Casinos pulled out all the stops for the holiday. Headliners at Las Vegas’ swanky nightclubs included DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars.
At a lower-key celebration in downtown Las Vegas’ casino-flanked Fremont Street Experience, bands played under a video canopy while visitors sipped giant beers. Ken and Linda Troyan of Peoria, Illinois were decked in a light-up “Happy New Year” hat and “2017” glasses as they took in a concert.
“We’re looking forward to a new adventure in our career,” said Linda Troyan, 54. She added, “2017’s going to be awesome.”
The couple said they’re excited to expand their carpet cleaning business and do renovations on their home in the new year.
Some tourists said 2016 was a year of disappointment. Colorado Springs resident Virginia Quill, 54, said she wished she had a better-paying job in 2016 and wasn’t thrilled that Donald Trump won the presidency.
But even those who troubled by the political climate were finding a silver lining as they looked toward 2017.
“Our president-elect has got to stop running his mouth … he looks like he wants a war,” said Albany resident Mike Mogavero, 47, who was spending New Year’s Eve with his wife Marissa. “That same bravado might actually get things done.”