What a messy end to 2016.
The Las Vegas Strip began jamming up with people hours before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve and, as people are inclined to do, they brought a lot of stuff with them to celebrate the occasion.
There were confetti streamers, 12-packs of Tecate and Miller Lite, water bottles, party horns and festive hats. There were food and soda cans, plastic bags and giant plastic cups filled with booze. A few police officers cut a wide berth where some overzealous drinkers had left their mark in the middle of the street.
But mostly it was just garbage.
By Clark County Public Works Department estimates, revelers left 14 tons of trash behind on Las Vegas Boulevard during the celebration. And so, the first act of the new year by public works, casino cleanup crews and the Nevada Department of Transportation was this: Get the street clean for vehicle traffic within hours of the last fireworks launched over the Strip in the first minutes of 2017.
Hilario Murillo, who has been doing New Year’s Eve cleanups for 18 years for the Paris Hotel and Casino, stood with a broom on the sidewalk and surveyed the piles of trash smashed up in the street gutter.
“Not too bad,” he said with a smile. “I think last year was worse.”
Murillo was waiting for the public works crews to methodically walk down the street — the first wave with leaf blowers and sprayers to move the trash into lines, where a second wave of street sweepers would then suck up the garbage.
The Strip had been closed to vehicle traffic a few hours before midnight, allowing people the rare chance to walk down the middle of the street — though the islands in the middle were barricaded and protected by police. Revelers — an estimated 330,000 — stopped to take pictures with the cops and video the thumping dance music at parties on outdoor patios outside the casinos.
Some sat on the curbs as if they were waiting for a parade. Groups of people yelled greetings to strangers. People took selfies with the bright lights of the casinos in the background. Outside Caesars Palace, a group of people preaching Christianity yelled judgments through bullhorns at the pedestrians. They screamed back while police made sure things didn’t escalate.
There were few arrests, and when the fireworks launched over the Strip, people shot video, hugged and kissed and then filtered down the street and headed into casinos, hotels or to their homes.
Then it was showtime for the approximately 90 public works employees whose job was to get the debris off the Strip so it could be reopened for vehicle traffic quickly. Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said the cost of cleaning up after the party on the Strip would be between $134,000 and $180,000.
A separate operation was responsible for cleanup downtown on Fremont Street, the city’s famous Glitter Gulch.
On the Strip, Murillo watched the line of street sweepers move slowly with yellow lights flashing and crews removing about 4,200 metal barricades once they’d passed — leaving a glistening path like watery snail trails. Murillo picked up his broom and joined the casino’s employees and began sweeping up the island area near the vehicle entrance.
By 3 a.m., the Strip was open to traffic again, sidewalks were packed with people, and the party continued inside the bars, restaurants and casinos on the Strip. The trash cans were emptied and the cars rolled down the clean boulevard. It had taken cleanup crews about two hours.
“It looks like nothing even happened,” Murillo said.
Until next year.