Las Vegas a Big Party for New Year

Revelers took to the Las Vegas Strip to watch more than 30,000 effects rocket from the rooftops of seven casinos. The eruption of
light and color was choreographed to a playlist of pop music, country hits and, of course, crooner Dean Martin.

Music also blared from the Fremont Street Experience downtown, where 33-year-old Darlene Fuller, of Los Angeles, summed up her
night in four words.

"Partying, drinking, dancing, signing," she said, snapping her
fingers. "I wanted the whole Las Vegas experience."

More than 300,000 people were expected to take part in celebrations around the city, despite temperatures that dropped to the low 30s.
Police blocked traffic on a nearly five-mile stretch of the Strip to make room for the party. A daredevil drew fans off the Strip to watch a record-breaking stunt. Nightclubs promised famous names.

"It's a party city, it's wild out here!" said Stephanie Smith, 21, of West Covina, Calif., as her friends polished off yard-long margaritas and walked the sidewalk outside the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

City boosters dubbed this year's party "The Best is Yet to Come," a play on Las Vegas' current $44 billion casino building boom, they said.

Tourism officials expected only a slight increase in visitors this year compared with last year, in part because none of the under-construction casino-hotels had yet added to the city's capacity.

The newest addition, the Palazzo resort, opened its casino late Sunday, along with an atrium connecting it with its sister property, The Venetian. But officials at the $1.9 billion property had not yet begun booking guests into its 3,066 suites, Sands Las Vegas Corp. spokesman Ron Reese said.

The flood of tourists was expected to spend nearly $212 million in restaurants, theaters and clubs.

For the young, hip and star-struck, that cash likely went toward a hefty door charge, usually around $250, at one of the Strip's slick night clubs.

A possible Pamela Anderson sighting came with the price of the ticket at PURE at Caesars Palace. Pop star Avril Lavigne was booked to host the party at the new Prive Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. The Luxor's LAX scored both Hilton sisters - Nicky and Paris - for its bash.

The steep prices were hard for some to stomach.

Fernando Munez, 23, and five of his friends struggled to find a place to party away from the crowd. Entrance, bottle service and table fees at the clubs were breaking their $3,000 budget.

"People on the Strip are too crazy. We're just here to chill," Munez said.

For something a bit lower key and upscale, restaurant Guy Savoy
at Caesars Palace took reservations for an eight-course feast and
wine pairing. Prix fixe: $800 per person.

The party downtown was a more accessible affair. A $60 ticket got visitors a pass to a concert at the Fremont Street Experience with the Doobie Brothers and the Bangles. Nearby, the Hogs & Heifers Saloon said it instituted a "no-frills" policy: "No llemon, no lime, no salt, no sugar ... no margarita glasses, no martini glasses, no wine and no whining."

At the Rio All-Suite Casino and Hotel, just off the Las Vegas Strip, ESPN hoped to set records.

Its "New Year. No Limits" live show caught motocross star
Robbie Maddison breaking the world motorcycle jumping record.
Maddison soared 322 feet, 7½ inches.

Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell said all the activity
resulted in relatively few arrests. "Everybody was pretty well behaved," Cassell said.