Entertainment capital readies centennial events

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LAS VEGAS -- Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack won't be there, but a yearlong party planned for 2005 promises to be a gas just the same when Las Vegas celebrates its 100th birthday.

There'll be a new line-up of entertainers on hand as the gaming capital of the world turns 100 years old on May 15, 2005 -- marking the date of its founding as Clark's Las Vegas Townsite.

The centennial celebrations will begin New Year's Eve and continue throughout the year, with the largest concentration of the hundreds of planned events and projects occurring May through July.

One of the major events -- a birthday bash -- will happen during the Fourth of July weekend, according to Stacy Allsbrook, executive director of the Las Vegas Centennial Celebration.

The Strip will be closed to traffic on the Fourth of July weekend next year as celebrants gather for a spectacular Las Vegas 100th birthday bash. "We're going to shut down the Strip [to traffic] and throw the world's biggest street party," she said.

There will be concerts, and the events will be broadcast live on TV, she said. There's no word yet on who will be performing. "We're filling in the blanks as we go," Allsbrook said.

The following is a listing of some of the events and activities already planned to help Las Vegas celebrate next year:

• Helldorado Days was a long-standing event that began in 1944 and ended in 1997. It consisted of parades, a Western village and a rodeo.

On May 14, 2005, the Fremont Street Experience will reprise Helldorado Days with a concert and Western village at the Fremont Street Experience and Neonopolis. On May 15, there will be a land auction to symbolize the creation of Las Vegas, three parades downtown and a street party with fireworks.

• Also on May 15, plans are afoot to break the world's record for the largest birthday cake. (It's currently 53 tons.) The gigantic cake will be located along Fremont Street.

• Because Las Vegas is known for its wedding industry, 100 couples from around the country will get married under the Fremont Street canopy on the 100th day of the centennial. The 100th couple, from Las Vegas, will get hitched at the historical Downtown Post Office.

• The Downtown Post Office will be the location of several programs, including historical exhibitions, docent-guided tours of the building and a series of four oral history lectures in the courtroom.

• The annual Folk Life Festival, held at the Clark County Government Center, in May 2005 will focus on the city's diversity. The event will feature food, demonstrations, music, dancing and crafts of the various ethnic groups who call Las Vegas home.

• An antique air show parade, featuring 100 private, antique aircraft from around the country, has been scheduled for May 2005. The air parade will include a fly-in from an antique Jenny aircraft to commemorate the first commercial flights in Las Vegas.

• Nellis Air Force Base and the Department of Defense will host their annual air show in conjunction with the air show production company World of Wings. The event, which will run from Nov. 10 to 12, 2005, will include static displays of both military and civilian aircraft along with a long schedule of flying performances and aerial demonstrations.

• To showcase the contributions of the Mormon community in Las Vegas, a Lighted Pioneer Wagon Parade will include covered lighted pioneer wagons, resembling the wagons of the late 1800s and carrying children in period costume. The procession will start at the Old Mormon Fort and will end at the Latter-Day Saints temple on Bonanza Road.

For more information on the 100th birthday celebration, visit www.lasvegas2005.org or call (702) 229-2005.

To contact reporter Amy Baratta, send e-mail to [email protected] .

Planning for centennial began in 2001

LAS VEGAS -- When you're throwing a party as large as the one Las Vegas has in the works to celebrate its 100th birthday next year, the planning has to start early.

Just ask Stacy Allsbrook, executive director of the Las Vegas Centennial Celebration.

"The celebration has been in the planning stages since 2001," Allsbrook said. "When you have a city of this size, you have to start early if you're going to have a party that's more spectacular than anyone has ever seen."

The celebration actually kicked off in 2002 with the release of a limited-edition Las Vegas Centennial license plate, available through Oct. 1, 2005, that sports a picture of the kitschy "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" neon sign that has beckoned visitors from its stance at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard for 45 years.

Sales of the license plate, which has proven to be the state's most popular, serve as a fund-raiser of sorts for the celebration because a portion of the sales proceeds is given to the Centennial Celebration fund, Allsbrook said.

"We've made a half-million dollars [on it] so far," she said. "It was good seed money for the celebration before sponsorships came in."

More licensed centennial merchandise will be available later this year and throughout 2005.

In fact, one of the celebration's sponsors, Clear Channel Entertainment, is responsible for handling merchandising and licensing for the Centennial Celebration as well as producing signature events, selling sponsorship packages and developing centennial-related television broadcast rights and opportunities.

Other sponsors include the city of Las Vegas; Clark County; Insignia Films/American Experience and the Public Broadcasting System, which will be producing a documentary; the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which is developing national and international promotional campaigns; R&R Partners, which is providing strategic marketing and public relations services; and Stephens Media Interactive, which is hosting and designing the official centennial Web site.

The site, at www.lasvegas2005.org, was developed as an awareness and educational tool. It recently was launched and will serve as the portal to all Centennial Celebration activities and programs.

The first phase of the Web site includes general information. The site's next phase, which is expected to go live within in the next 30 days, according to Allsbrook, will include a master events calendar.

"We anticipate the calendar will be one of the most popular areas of the Web site, as it will be the only place that will have the latest information on everything from school and civic organization celebrations to major communitywide signature centennial events," she said.

For more information about the Las Vegas Centennial Celebration, visit the Web site or call (702) 229-2005. -- A.B.

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