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Las Vegas welcomes 2012 with big crowds, fireworks

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:53 a.m. HST, Jan 01, 2012


LAS VEGAS >> Thousands of partiers packed the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday and welcomed 2012 with casino rooftop fireworks, expensive celebrity-studded parties at nightclubs and an urge to bid adieu to 2011.

At midnight, fireworks were launched from several rooftops of the city's most famous casinos.

Phil and Sharon Fontejon of Los Angeles used the last day of 2011 to renew their vows after 13 years of marriage, celebrating with a quick getaway apart from their two children.

"We're excited — we're going to be married forever," Sharon Fontejon said after a 10-minute ceremony at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas where she told Phil she loved him like she loves sushi, while dozens of pedestrians on the Strip watched.

Phil Fontejon paused after an officiant asked if he'd say "I do" again, then replied: "Of course."

The year had its ups and downs, he said, but they were planning to start 2012 by watching fireworks on the Strip from an outdoor bar, then drive back to California on Sunday morning.

Tourism officials expected a record 314,000 visitors to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas, an optimistic sign capping a year in which visitor volume improved from a two-year funk thanks to the Great Recession.

Police shut down the Strip to vehicle traffic roughly six hours before midnight, letting revelers party in the street along a roughly four-mile stretch of road normally packed with cars at night.

The National Weather Service said temperatures on the Strip could be expected to drop to about 41 degrees overnight, and 50 degrees at midnight.

Authorities reported only minor hiccups before 11 p.m., including an ash tray canister fire on the 15th floor of the Paris Las Vegas hotel casino and an intermittent power outage at Bellagio on Saturday afternoon that led to casino officials closing its buffet.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said the canister fire was quickly extinguished, and reported no injuries.

The Bellagio outage also affected a bank of slot machines and some guest rooms, casino spokesman Gordon Absher said. Absher said property engineers fixed the problem before 8 p.m., allowing all gambling, planned nightclub parties and shows to go forward as expected.

Tanya Jain, 34, of Seattle, said she planned to spend New Year's Eve on the Strip outside the Venetian hotel-casino, where she planned to stay with her husband and five friends after flying into town Friday night.

"I really think 2012 is going to be even better. I think 2011 was kind of tough, especially for a lot of people I know," Jain said.

Jain said she had a good year with some memorable trips to Thailand and France, but 2011 included some trying times, like heart problems for her father.

Sin City offered Jain and her husband a last hurrah as they decide whether or not to start a family next year, she said.

"Who knows what will happen this year, and we may not get that chance again for a long time," Jain said.

Casino nightclubs touted pricey, exclusive bashes with bottle service and open bars, hosted by reality TV and music celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Bruno Mars, Fergie, Holly Madison, Tyga, LMFAO, Chris Brown and others.

Jem Siquian of Manila, Philippines, said she planned to walk the Strip with friends before heading to Tryst nightclub in the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino for drinks, dancing and a glimpse of Rob Kardashian.

"I watch 'Dancing With the Stars' — I wanted to see him in person," said Siquian, 23.

The teacher said she was looking forward to 2012 after a memorable 2011 that's ending with a 6-month visit to family in the U.S.

"It's my year — the year of the dragon — if you believe in that," she said. "I hope it'll be lucky."

Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Guns N' Roses and NOFX were expected to perform concerts, with Wonder's show at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas broadcast live on the casino's marquee to those partying on the Strip below. Those inside paid at least $250 each to get in.

In northern Nevada, thousands of partiers mainly from California were expected to gather on U.S. Highway 50 in the Stateline casino area, where authorities planned to shut down the road. Officials expected a bigger crowd than usual because of warmer than normal weather.






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