LAS VEGAS >> Hundreds of thousands of revelers descended on the Las Vegas Strip to ring in the new year with the help of novelty drinks, celebrity toasts and a fireworks display billed as the country’s largest.
A crush of high-profile musical acts played sold-out Sin City concerts on Monday, including Beyonce, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Black Keys. Casinos hosted nightclub parties with red carpets and $3,000 bottle service hosted by musical and reality television celebrities including Nicki Minaj, Brandy and Ice-T.
Kelli Gandy, 26, was among the fans who counted down with Kim Kardashian at the Mirage.
“I love her, so I had to come, I had to have a table and everything,” she said next to $1,200 bottles of Dom Perignon Champagne. “It was imperative that I see her.”
Police shut down the Strip to vehicles from the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino to the Sahara as night fell, allowing tourists to flood a four-mile stretch of road normally packed with cars.
Temperatures dropped to the low 30s, but the bundled-up masses poured out of casinos to take in the oversized drinks, street side entertainment and 2013 knickknacks. Tourism officials believe more than 330,000 visitors flocked to the desert for the festivities.
Among the street performers lining the Strip were a shaggy snow monster, several women in rabbit costumes, a couple dressed as giant birds and a host of actors in costume for a masquerade ball. Revels tooted plastic horns and wore red, silver and gold plastic beads over mini-dresses and button-down shirts. They erupted into groans when glass beer bottles shattered on the street, cheered when the volcano outside the Mirage erupted on the hour, and let out contagious siren calls for no reason at all.
Eddie Garcia, of south Texas, shuffled toward 2013 with an alcohol-filled plastic test tube called the “yard” dangling from a ribbon around his neck. He was counting out the last hours of his 20s and hoping to find someone to kiss at midnight.
“You never know, sometimes it just happens,” he said.
Wyley Meyers, 27, was hoping to charge his cellphone and find his friends. He approached a group of teenagers holding “Free Hug” signs. The teens did not have a charger, but they did mob him in embraces.
When the clock struck midnight, seven hotel-casinos unleashed identical eight-minute rooftop fireworks displays costing $500,000, about 10 times as much as the Mandarin Oriental’s “Ultimate Presidential New Year’s Eve Package.” The peppy soundtrack included songs by Flo Rida and Pink.
Manuela Enz, 35, and her wife came from Switzerland to see the light show. They paid a street vendor $30 for matching white top hats adorned with sequins and flashing bulbs.
“My hope for 2013 is that I’m not ill and that I’m happy,” Enz said.
But many visitors missed the parties and the pyrotechnics, glued to their slot machines and video poker screens as the year changed. Bill and Chris Sebestik celebrated their 25th anniversary beneath a rotating red Audi sedan, playing a slot game that gave them a chance at winning the car.
The Chicago couple said 2012 had been rocky, with Bill losing his job, but they were sure 2013 would bring good news.
North of the Strip, the downtown Fremont Street Experience walking mall held an adults-only party featuring cover bands, virtual fireworks and a countdown by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
Metro police and about 300 Nevada National Guardsmen patrolled the city on a mostly peaceful night, reporting just 13 arrests. In contrast, on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, police made eight arrests as 40,000 revelers rang in the new year, according to the Douglas County sheriff’s office.
With room occupancy approaching 100 percent, hoteliers had reason to celebrate a lucrative ending to a middling 2012. Visitor volume has only recently eclipsed pre-recession levels, and gambling revenue continues to flag.
Many hotel-casinos sought to lure guests to town before the New Year’s Eve — traditionally the biggest moneymaking night of the year — with concerts, “rehearsal parties” and mandatory two-day reservations.
Saurabh Roi did not need any enticing — the 33-year-old southern California resident rang in the new year in Sin City for the third time. “The colorful people and clothing make you feel brighter about life,” he said.
He ticked off his resolutions, including a vow to become more organized: “I want not to keep repeating the same mistakes in life,” he said.
Nearby, swaying at the foot of a pedestrian bridge outside the Venetian, Jack Stritch swilled bourbon in a plastic cup.
The 47-year-old San Jose man said he had only one resolution for the new year: moderation.