Crowds lower than expected, not too rowdy at Tahoe for New Year |

Crowds lower than expected, not too rowdy at Tahoe for New Year

BRENDAN RILEY, Associated Press Writer

STATELINE, Nev. (AP) – Millennium revelers whooped it up but weren’t as rowdy as last year’s street crowd in this Tahoe resort area.

Officials had predicted a record 60,000 people. But half that number braved subfreezing temperatures to take over a half-mile stretch of highway on the Nevada-California line, matching the mob a year earlier.

Police arrested more than 80 people who got carried away with their celebrating – including a few who tossed a television set out of a motel room and broke car windows.

A man climbed a traffic light and stripped off most of his clothes as he hung about 30 feet above the street at the state line. He leaped into the crowd and fled before officers could arrest him.

Others were arrested for being drunk, fighting or setting off illegal fireworks. The arrest count was less than half the number arrested a year ago.

”The crowd was much better behaved than last year,” said Jeff Bowers of the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Thousands avoided confrontations with police. Some even posed with officers who pretended to arrest them outside casinos. Friends took snapshots of the mock arrests for Millennium souvenirs.

Inside the clubs, security crews checked IDs and looked for troublemakers. A few businesses boarded up their windows as a precaution.

High-rolling gamblers David and Mary Houge of Los Gatos, Calif., said the possibility of an unruly crowd on the streets outside the casinos ensured they’d stay inside and take their chances with the card and dice tables and slot machines.

”I won’t go out in the street,” said Houge, who turned 54 on New Year’s Day. ”It just gets too rowdy.”

The Houges said their luck held up so well that they didn’t want to leave Harrah’s hotel-casino anyway. ”I won $20,000 on the $5 slot machines,” said Mary Houge. ”And David won $3,000 playing blackjack.”

The Houges weren’t alone in dressing in formal dinner attire for the evening. Others opted for the outlandish.

”We just wanted to go into the New Year like idiots,” said Robert Pyne of Fair Oaks, Calif., who with a few of his friends, all in their early 20s, wore big Afro wigs. He went a step further, dressing up in a red silk suit.

Across the lake at Squaw Valley, hundreds of people decided to ski and snowboard their way into the millennium. They zipped by the dozens of skaters who braved a stiff, cold wind to skate around an outdoor rink near the summit of the mountain.

Liz Chiba, a New Year’s Day baby, said she wanted to do something different for her 16th birthday.

”It’s the millennium and such a big event,” she said.

Peter Goldstein, 31, of San Francisco, took a low-key approach to the holiday, snow shoeing and hiking Friday afternoon and settling down to a quiet dinner with a few friends in the evening.

”We have bottles of wine here, the booze. We will probably avoid the mob scene, the driving drunk scene and just stay here,” referring to his cabin.