Rowdy revelers make the scene
December 30, 2003
By William Ferchland
Tribune staff writer
It’s like a mosh pit in a kissing booth.
For about two decades on every New Year’s Eve, tens of thousands of young partiers have claimed the Stateline casino stretch of Lake Tahoe Boulevard as their own.
The result is a hedonistic affair that has to be seen to be believed.
Caitlin Leff, a UC Santa Barbara student, celebrated New Year’s Eve at Tahoe two years ago with 20 friends.
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At 10:45 that night, Leff and her friends approached Stateline.
“It was a bunch of people walking that way,” Leff said. “All of a sudden there was a wall of people. Friends got lost. You couldn’t stay with more than three people because you lose everyone.”
When she got past the first wave of people, there were only more people.
“You were kind of pushed along,” she recalled. “It was like an ocean. You kind of float along with everyone else. Then people stop and you have to push your way through.”
Leff was with her boyfriend at the time but that didn’t make others restrain their hands.
“People thought they had the right to grab your ass,” Leff said.
A string of girls with locked arms is a common sight. Despite its being a winter night in Tahoe, it can look like a scene out of a “Girls Gone Wild” video. Marijuana smoke wafts through the air. Fights break out. Laughter erupts when old friends are briefly reunited.
Some veterans of Douglas County Sheriff’s Department watch the scene and direct units from the casino rooftops. Booking and medical stations are available if needed.
Seth Capri, a 26-year-old from the North Bay, was with his girlfriend and sister on New Year’s Eve. One drunken man tried to kiss his sister.
“This guy was crazy,” Capri said. “He was all loaded and stuff. I was all drunk too and I put a cigarette out on his face. Yeah, it was messed up.”
That same night Capri and the girls found themselves under a street sign that a man climbed. The man shed most of his clothes while the crowd flung shoes and bottles at him.
“People were throwing stuff at him,” Capri said. “(My girlfriend) fell down because she got hit by a champagne bottle. A little after that police on horses broke that up.
“It’s dangerous with the bottles flying around,” Capri said. “That’s nuts. That scared me.”
Marshall Cook, also a student at UC Santa Barbara, witnessed the bottle tossing and body grabbing. He described a “gravitational pull” at the spot between Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Resort & Casino.
“It’s almost like all the people are drunk,” he said. “When you’re pushing through people it’s almost like you’re holding them up.”
Leff said the lack of a large clock made for four or five different countdowns. Many have chanted the electronic crosswalk between Caesars Tahoe and Horizon Casino Resort which counts down the time available to cross the street.
After 2004 is christened with kisses and hugs, the rush to leave the scene becomes almost unbearable and a cab driver’s worst nightmare.
“The only bad part was getting out after the countdown,” Cook said. “You want to get back to your party.”
Leff and Cook will be celebrating the upcoming 2004 at places other than Tahoe. Capri will return but plans to stay inside the casinos.
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org.