STATELINE -- An estimated 40,000 people took to the casino corridor Tuesday night to welcome 2003 in what officials are calling a rather mild New Year's Eve.
Celebrants, many of them students on winter break, totaled a bit less than the expected 50,000 to 65,000 revelers. Most were bundled for overnight temperatures in the single digits.
Ice covered the pavement on the California side, which was still littered with crushed beer cans and empty vodka bottles by daylight Wednesday.
Firefighters manning medical stations reported several minor slips and falls on the ice.
"Actually, it was a great night," said Capt. Rick Myers of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department. "Everything was pretty orderly. Before midnight, there was an orderly flow of people going to Stateline."
Barton Memorial Hospital reported 39 patients sought emergency care from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. Nursing supervisor Lori Waller could not say what all the injuries were, but added that the 39 patients were slightly more than average seen on New Year's Eve.
Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District handled 23 medical aid calls, mostly alcohol related, from 9 p.m. Tuesday to early Wednesday morning, said Capt. Ken Poohachoff.
A deputy at Douglas County Jail reported 14 people were brought to the facility -- most for disorderly conduct and battery. Two arrived for civil protective custody, meaning they were too drunk too care for themselves.
El Dorado County Jail reported 22 people arriving to the facility, most for public intoxication.
About 100 officers from various agencies kept people to the sides of Lake Tahoe Boulevard leading to the casino corridor. Officers kept a keen eye out for partiers bringing alcohol in glass bottles or aluminum cans.
On one side of the road, California Highway Patrol officers acted as gatekeepers to Stateline, telling violators of the alcohol ban to pour their drinks to the ground. Another group of officers from Alpine County Sheriff's Department double-checked for illegal containers.
El Dorado Sgt. Randy Peshon stood guard in the middle of Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
"We were commenting last night it just seemed like a lighter crowd, but it's tough (to judge) while standing there," Peshon said.
The casino corridor was alive with mostly young, energized people. Some carried Mardi Gras beads and video cameras. The smell of cigarettes and marijuana mixed in the chilly air. Shouts were common as friends spotted each other and hugged tightly.
Even with the ban, alcohol was present as wine and champagne flowed.
Casinos were equally busy. Gambling tables were filled with people three deep watching the action. The line to get a drink was long, said Aaron Long and Colin Fairchild from South Lake Tahoe.
The two were walking next to the Marriott Grand Residence on Wednesday afternoon. Fairchild said he was dealing with a hangover.
"It was crazy, as usual," Long, 21, said. "But I didn't see anybody hanging from the lightpost."
Both agreed there could be improvements to the celebration, such as a ball dropping to let people know when midnight arrives.
"Last night when midnight hit, nobody knew it," Fairchild, 20, said.
Celia Bell, 22, of South Lake Tahoe, said she noticed the holiday night's cold temperatures.
"It was just as good as last year," she said. "It was definitely colder and the road was slick, but it didn't put damper on it. Not at all."