Large crowd leaves little in the aftermath |

Large crowd leaves little in the aftermath

In the 1970s New Year’s at Stateline drew a couple of thousand people. In 2001, nearly 60,000 came to party and they did it safely.

The thundering boom of loud firecrackers, fist fights and exposed breasts were common before and after the New Year.

Forget the fact there is neither a ball drop nor a public clock, and the celebration at Stateline could be labeled the West Coast version of New Year’s at Times Square.

Even though a record crowd packed into the casino corridor, with people having to link arms with friends in order to make any headway, the number of arrests was about average.

Around midnight, Brad Bennett, South Lake Tahoe chief of police and fire, watched the massive party from a balcony above the intersection of Stateline and U. S. Highway 50. He studied revelers below like a concerned parent.

“There are a lot people, a lot more than last year,” Bennett said. “We haven’t had very many arrests at all … It seems like our low key approach is working pretty well.”

Questioned about the breast flashing, an activity that seems to be becoming a tradition at Stateline, Bennett responded: “You wouldn’t think the weather would be conducive to that, but if you’ve got enough antifreeze in you, you can do anything I guess.”

Even with the temperature around freezing, a handful of men also had bare skin exposed to the cold, clear night air. After the disjointed celebration of 2001 was over, one out-of-sync because people went by their own watches, energy slowly drained from the crowd.

But there was a short burst of energy just after 12:30 a.m. when a man began climbing a traffic utility pole in front of Harveys Casino Resort (the same pole a man successfully climbed last year). Deputies caught him just beneath the green sign that marks California’s border.

Finally, at 1:45 p.m., with most of the thousands of revelers well on their way home, law enforcement decided the party was over. Peace officers and monstrous orange street sweepers reclaimed the road.

The mix of confetti and broken green champagne bottles nestled against the sidewalk would not be seen until next year: same time, same place.

“Nobody condones this thing and it’s not really sanctioned by any agency but we know what’s going to happen,” said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Perini, who has worked New Year’s at Stateline for more than 20 years. “It was an average year as far as (criminal) activity, but a larger than average crowd.”

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