Cold keeps crowd down; trash piles up |

Cold keeps crowd down; trash piles up

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneTrash piled up in the snow berm is all that remains of the estimated 40,000 people that visited the Stateline area.

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 at Stateline.

Those who appeared, mostly students on winter break, totaled a mass a bit lower than the expected 50,000 to 65,000 revelers. Street combers bundled up to bear the brunt of 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 minor slips and falls. Those who came to the tents suffered from incidents related to alcohol, officials said.

“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.”

The two makeshift medical stations each had an ambulance. A third ambulance was roaming. According to Myers, there were 22 medical aid calls. Twelve occurred after midnight.

The crowd was loud enough for firefighters to have difficulty hearing calls. Two frequencies had to be used by firefighters.

Barton Memorial Hospital reported 39 patients arriving for 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 any given 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.

Ice was not much of a problem, he said.

Along with the medical calls keeping their five ambulances busy, Poohachoff said a juvenile pulled a fire alarm at Horizon Casino Resort.

A deputy at Douglas County Jail reported 14 people were brought to the facility — mostly for disorderly conduct and battery. Two arrived for civil protective custody, meaning they were too drunk to care for themselves.

El Dorado County Jail reported 22 people arriving at the facility, most for public intoxication.

About 100 authorities from different agencies kept people to the sides of Lake Tahoe Boulevard leading to the corridor. Officers kept a keen eye for partiers bringing alcohol in glass bottles or aluminum cans. On one side of the road, a group of California Highway Patrol officers acted as gatekeepers to Stateline, telling violators of the alcohol ban to pour their liquid to the ground. Another group of authorities, from Alpine County Sheriff’s Department, double-checked for people carrying 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.

In the casino corridor, the streets were alive with mostly young, energized people. Some carried Mardi Gras beads and video cameras hoping to record girls baring skin. The smell of cigarettes and marijuana mixed with the chilly air. Shouts were common as friends spotted each other and gripped in tight hugs.

Even with the ban, alcohol was still present as wine and champagne was poured or drunk from the bottle. Guys kissed girls they didn’t know while there was more pushing than a mosh pit.

Casinos were equally busy. Gambling tables were filled with people three deep watching the action. The line to get a drink was impatiently long, said Aaron Long and Colin Fairchild from South Lake Tahoe.

The two were walking on the sidewalk next to the Marriott Grand Residence on Wednesday afternoon. Fairchild said he was busy dealing with a hangover.

“It was crazy as usual,” Long, 21, said. “But I didn’t see anybody hanging from the light post.”

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. “Somebody said it was midnight and people were going off.”

The two went inside the casinos to continue their celebration during the early hours of 2003. But the retreat to shelter wasn’t caused by chilly temperatures, Fairchild said.

“I think I was too drunk to notice (the cold),” he said.

Celia Bell, 22, of South Lake Tahoe, said she noticed the holiday night’s cold temperatures. She was taking snowboard boots off in a crowded Crescent V parking lot Wednesday.

“It was just as good as last year,” she said. “It was definitely colder and the road was slick but it didn’t put a damper on it. Not at all.”

— Contact William Ferchland at

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