Los Angeles' inaugural push to stage a New Year’s Eve bash rivaling those in other major cities became so crowded that organizers shut down the gates before midnight, leaving thousands to watch the show from side streets.
An estimated 25,000 revelers jammed into Grand Park in downtown to hear DJs spin electronic beats, to browse art installations and to pose for photographs in front of brightly-lit fountains, said Howard Sherman, chief operating officer of the Music Center, which helped organize the event.
The star attraction was a colorful 3-D light show projecting images of flowing water, bouncing balls and psychedelia onto the side of City Hall.
But the huge turnout appeared to catch organizers off guard. Food trucks ran out of their wares early and people grumbled as they stood in long lines to buy beer. As midnight approached, a small melee broke out as a crowd pushed against closed gates.
Michael Trujillo, a downtown resident, said he was attempting to enter Grand Park around 10:45 p.m. when a crowd of about 500 people at 1st Street and Broadway began chanting, demanding to be let in.
Security guards in yellow jackets were trying to hold back the line, he said, informing people that the park was at capacity and had been closed by a fire marshal. But the crowd grew more agitated and rushed the gate, he said.
“There were maybe four security people and they just broke right past them,” said Trujillo, a political consultant. Some people fell down during the rush, he said, and police cruisers responded in force.
Once the party crashers got into the park, things calmed down, Trujillo said. Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Wright, watch commander of the Central Division, said he was unaware of the faceoff.
Sherman said the event may be expanded next year.
“We have a really, really good problem,” he said. “We hoped this is what it would turn into in years to come.”
Revelers from all across the county made for a diverse crowd with a warm vibe, said Sherman, who likewise heard no reports of security issues. "It really did look like all of Los Angeles,” he said. “It was an unbelievable evening.”
Organizers said they hope the event will become a tradition for the city, where past attempts at centralized celebrations have fallen flat. Trujillo, who decided not to wade into the crowd, agreed, but said changes need to be made.
“The good news is it was at capacity and became a destination, which for Angelenos we’ve never really had,” he said.