An 'Auld Lang Syne' of the times: A quiet New Year's Eve on the Strip

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Thousands of revelers normally pack the Las Vegas Strip for a spectacular fireworks display on New Year's Eve. It will be a more low-key scene this year.
Thousands of revelers normally pack the Las Vegas Strip for a spectacular fireworks display on New Year's Eve. It will be a more low-key scene this year. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

The New Year's Eve gathering of thousands of revelers on the Las Vegas Strip, fireworks exploding overhead, is as spectacular as festivities in Times Square and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. But not this year, of course.

The multimillion-dollar fireworks show will not be set off from casino rooftops, sponsor Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announced. More than 300,000 visitors spent New Year's Eve in Las Vegas last year, but Covid-19 concerns make this year's holiday considerably dimmer.

"It's a great attraction, and it's a branding opportunity for Las Vegas and certainly fits really well with who we are," said Steve Hill, CEO and president of the LVCVA, said in an interview with Travel Weekly on Nov. 16. "Four weeks ago, I was still pounding my fist on the table, saying 'Damn it, we're going to have a fireworks show and celebrate the end of 2020.' And then, we just got to the point that we realized that's just not the responsible thing to do."

About the same time as the LVCVA's cancellation, the Plaza Hotel & Casino downtown announced plans for fireworks staged from multiple locations on its roofs and towers when the clock strikes midnight. Whether or not that show will go on is up in the air.

Las Vegas will also be without the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), another big draw in December. But this year, the "Super Bowl of Rodeos" will be at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

The NFR has been held in the 17,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center since moving from Oklahoma City in 1985, selling out 10 nights of events every year and filling hotel rooms during a relatively slow time in Las Vegas.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's contract with Las Vegas Events to host the NFR, which had run through 2024, has been extended one year to 2025 because of the interruption.

Live sporting and entertainment venues are complying with new restrictions announced by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Nov. 22. A three-week "pause" beginning Nov. 24 limits gaming establishments, restaurants, bars and showrooms to no more than 25% occupancy, down from the previous 50% cap.

December, without a specific driver for tourists, is anticipated to be down in terms of visitation, Hill said. "We've known that for a couple of months.  Certainly now, if you can, you're probably going to see family [during the holidays]; a lot of people haven't been able to see their family for a long time. And they may be making plans to do that. The next weeks will probably be below what we've seen in August, September and October."

MGM Resorts International's Mandalay Bay, Mirage and Park MGM have shut down hotel operations Mondays to Thursdays through late December. The Encore, Palazzo and Planet Hollywood are among other resorts that have also scaled back hotel operations during weekdays. Casinos, restaurants and other amenities remain open at the properties throughout the week.

"Even when Las Vegas was booming, even when Las Vegas was setting visitation records, December is always the slowest month. That's when room rates plunge, that's when everyone's trying to fill their places," Anthony Curtis of LasVegasAdvisor.com told KTNV-Channel 13 in Las Vegas.

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