The first chance for many visitors and Las Vegas locals to party and play the Sin City branded way in 2009 turned out to be, sadly, a little less-than-spectacular. There were limited Las Vegas A-list midnight performances by Kid Rock, Pink, Fergie, and Akon. And, as usual, there was a smattering of A-list celebrities playing peek-a-boo in and out of the Las Vegas nightclubs. The 291,000 visitors to the Strip this year also found themselves popping corks – and more – with Usher, Denise Richards, Kim Kardashian, or Ashley Simpson and hubby Pete Wentz. But for the most part, 2009, even though it brought more people in than last year’s estimated 284,000, provided partygoers limited sparkle and under restricted circumstance and attendance. Despite the enticement of rock-bottom room rates and added incentives, the number of Las Vegas visitors this year was down from the 305,000 people attending New Year’s in 2006. And this year there were 126 people arrested; 47 for driving under the influence.
In January 2008 a fire erupted on the roof of the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas and the ensuing investigation raised concerns about how easily Vegas Strip hotels could become blazing Hollywood backdrops. So, when the time came for the 2009 News Year’s Eve fireworks blitz to be planned – it had to be staged from the roof of lower, and somewhat safer, parking garages located around the periphery of Las Vegas. And once safety restrictions were paired with financial reductions, the city view that had once become a regular CNN moment beamed throughout the world didn’t even rate a cell phone video.
But not everyone in Las Vegas was participating in a subdued 2009 New Year’s Eve. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, surrounded by his usual cache’ of jewel-toned showgirls, celebrated the start of 2009 at the Fremont Street Experience, his favorite haunt. “We’re the luckiest people in the world,” a beaming, red-nosed Goodman proclaimed to the record crowd of 30,000 in attendance. “I want all of us who live here to be prosperous and happy in 2009.” And we all know that when Oscar Goodman issues a proclamation, the city and citizens respond with fervor.
Our New Year’s wish is that this slow motion opening is just a simple starting point for what will be a spectacular 2009 for everyone.