Police chief: Reno crowd that bulged to 60,000 still ”mellow” | NevadaAppeal.com

Police chief: Reno crowd that bulged to 60,000 still ”mellow”

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Police in riot gear posed for pictures with leggy blondes in mini skirts.

Sheriff’s deputies on horses shouted ”Happy New Year” as they cleared the downtown streets with no resistance within 90 minutes after the new century arrived.

Roger and Crystal Lund got married at midnight and still made it into the streets to see the $100,000 fireworks extravaganza. And Joey Mazzone didn’t get arrested.

All in all, it was a relatively quiet night in the Biggest Little City in the World as a crowd estimated as large as 60,000 swarmed the downtown casino district to whoop it up and mark the passing from one century to another.

”Last year I was in South Lake Tahoe and I woke up in jail,” said Mazzone of Tahoe City, Calif. ”The Reno cops are more lenient.”

Police estimated the crowd at about 25,000 at 11:30 p.m. Friday, but it more than doubled by midnight as thousands swarmed out of the casinos the last 30 minutes, filling five blocks of Virginia Street stretching underneath the Reno arch.

”The last 5 minutes, the casinos emptied, but it was still a mellow crowd,” Reno Police Chief Jerry Hoover said.

They counted the seconds down on an outdoor sign at the Club Cal-Neva, blew horns, hollered and kissed under the skies bursting with fireworks.

A half-dozen young men with no shirts in the 27-degree weather climbed on top of a newspaper vending machines and several people threw drinks in the air, but there were few fights.

The Washoe County sheriff’s office reported 50 people were booked into the county jail late Friday and early Saturday, but only about 20 of those arrests were made downtown at the New Year’s Eve celebration.

The vast majority of the arrests involved celebrants who had been drinking. No major injuries were reported.

”That’s not even a busy Wednesday night in the summer,” Hoover said.

”This has been basically a media event. There was a lot of emphasis on terrorism and potential problems and people said, ‘The heck with it, I’m staying home.’ People decided it was not worth the hassle.”

Hoover put the last-minute crowd estimate at 59,900, although Washoe County Sheriff Richard Kirkland said he didn’t believe it was that large.

”Obviously the clubs charged too much for hotel rooms and people got scared of Y2K,” Kirkland said.

Five minutes after the magic moment, many people returned to the casinos and the streets began to clear.

Eben Bartow of Truckee, Calif., said the fear of violence had been exaggerated.

”It’s all peace, it’s all good. I haven’t seen any violence,” he said as four policemen on horses and six on motorcycles led street cleaners down Virginia Street beginning at 1:11 a.m.

Roger Lund, 33, and Crystal Lund, 30, of Contra Costa County, Calif., planned their wedding five months in advance to be the first in 2000 at the Heart of Reno chapel.

”We wanted to be the first Millennium wedding,” Mrs. Lund said in her white wedding dress. ”We got married right at 12 o’clock and then ran outside to see the fireworks.”

In Carson City, a power outage moments after midnight left about 12,000 people on the west side of the city in temporary darkness.

Sierra Pacific Power Co. said the outage was caused when a Mylar balloon got tangled in a power line and tripped a breaker.

In Elko, about 3,500 people braved frosty temperatures in the teens to watch a fireworks display and join the rest of the world in celebrating the new year. Many local officials, including the sheriff, fire chief and city council members, spent the evening at an emergency command post playing Monopoly.

In Ely, money literally fell from the sky and hundreds gathered outside for a chance to scoop up a portion of $1,500 dropped off the roof of the Hotel Nevada.