Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
The "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" Sign
The sign, just to the south of the Las Vegas Strip, welcoming visitors to the city
|Location||5200 Las Vegas Blvd South Paradise, Nevada, 89119|
|NRHP Reference #||09000284|
|Added to NRHP||May 1, 2009|
The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is a Las Vegas landmark funded in May 1959 and erected soon after by Western Neon. The sign was designed by Betty Willis at the request of Ted Rogich, a local salesman, who sold it to Clark County, Nevada.
The sign is located in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, north of the historic stone pillars of the old McCarran Airport on the east side, and across from the Bali Hai Golf Club and the (closed) Klondike Hotel & Casino on the west side. Some consider the sign to be the official southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The sign, like most of the Strip, sits in the town of Paradise and is located roughly 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the actual city limits of Las Vegas. (Such distinctions are usually ignored by both locals and tourists, who refer to the entire metro area as "Las Vegas".)
The sign is a 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) classic roadside pole design, mounted offset on two flat poles which are joined by a cross piece at the top. The poles extend above the top of the sign. The sign is a horizontally stretched diamond shape, with the top and bottom angles pointed while the side angles are rounded. It is double-backed, internally lit, with a border of flashing and chasing yellow incandescent bulbs outside around the perimeter. In a nod to Nevada's nickname as "the Silver State," across the top of the sign are white neon circles, designed to represent silver dollars. The circles each contain a red painted letter, outlined in neon, which together form the word "Welcome." Crowning the sign, located between the two poles and just under the crosspiece is an eight-pointed, red-painted metal star outlined with yellow neon.
The intersecting vertical and horizontal lines of the star extend over and wrap around the frame that is created by the two poles and the cross piece, which give the star a dynamic, explosive appearance. The cabinet is faced with translucent white plastic and covered with blue and red painted text. The south side of the sign reads "Welcome" inside the silver dollars, with "to Fabulous" in blue, in a 1950s-style cursive, underneath. The words "Las Vegas" are on the next line in red, all capitalized, and large, almost filling the width of the sign. Under "Las Vegas" is the word "Nevada" in blue, all capitalized, in a much smaller font. On the back or north side, which is less frequently photographed and thus is lesser known, the sign reads "Drive" on the top line and "Carefully" on the second in red capital letters, with "Come Back" in blue on the third line, in script, and "Soon" all capitalized in blue on the fourth line. The design is characteristic of the Googie architecture movement.
Betty Willis intended to design a sign that was unique in its shape, style and content. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) currently owns the sign, which leases it to Clark County, while the design itself is in the public domain. The design of the sign was never copyrighted since Willis considered this her gift to the city and wanted it to be in the public domain. This has resulted in the image being ubiquitous on Las Vegas souvenirs.
On October 4, 1999, the sign went dark for about a month when the company that had been paying the power bill was bought by another company who did not pay the bill. When the problem was discovered, payment of the past due amount, under $60, was made, and power was turned back on.
With the sign so far away from the city itself, in 2002, the Las Vegas City Council erected a sign reading "Welcome to Fabulous Downtown Las Vegas" at Las Vegas Boulevard and 4th Street, just within the city limits of the City of Las Vegas proper.
On March 6, 2007, another replica of the sign, larger than the original, was installed on Boulder Highway just north of Tropicana Ave. Like the original, it does not mark the border with Las Vegas; instead, it "represents the understood gateway from the Boulder Highway to Las Vegas." This is according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Later in 2007, Clark County installed decorative artificial turf inlaid with four playing cards underneath the sign.
On January 31, 2008, the sign turned red in support of National Wear Red Day. The American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign sought to educate the public on women's risk of cardiovascular disease and promote the importance of women getting screened for heart disease.
On December 8, 2008, a small parking lot was opened in the median of Las Vegas Boulevard to allow official public access to the sign for the first time. The artificial turf was replaced, but without the playing cards. Prior to the parking lot's construction, visitors to the sign were forced to cross the northbound or southbound lanes of Las Vegas Blvd. without the benefit of any traffic signal or crosswalk. While no one is known to have been killed while trying to access the sign, increasing traffic at the south end of the Strip has made a crossing increasingly dangerous. The new parking lot provides 10 standard parking spaces, two handicapped spaces, and two large spaces for buses or limousines.
In late 2008, Clark County employees sought to have the sign listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office officially nominated it, and the National Park Service approved the designation on May 1, 2009.
On May 14, 2009, Mayor Oscar Goodman and the Playboy personality Holly Madison coincided the start of summer with the sign's 50th anniversary. Part of the celebration was making it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest bikini parade, followed by pool parties throughout the city. The event kicked off in front of the sign with a runway-style retrospective featuring bathing suits from the 1950s to today.
April 28, 2010, marked the first time the text of the sign has ever been changed. Mayor Oscar Goodman unveiled the new marketing campaign "Camp Vegas." The sign was adorned with a cover that read "Welcome to Fabulous Camp Vegas." The event was hosted by Holly Madison, Wayne Newton, Oscar Goodman, and a slew of showgirls and skydivers. The Camp Vegas cover remained over the sign for 36 hours.
Meanwhile, the small 10-space parking lot installed in December 2008 had been completely overwhelmed by the ever-expanding number of visitors to the sign. Therefore, in April 2012, the Clark County Commission authorized the expenditure of $500,000 to add 20 more spaces to accommodate visitor traffic.
On December 6, 2013, the State Historic Preservation Office for the State of Nevada announced that the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign had been added to the State Register of Historic Places.
On April 19, 2015, the designer of the sign, Betty Willis, died in her home in Overton, Nevada. She was 91 years old.
On April 23, 2015, new traffic signals to help pedestrians cross Las Vegas Boulevard at the sign were installed. This project added two sets of traffic signals, marked crosswalks, 21 additional parking spots and cosmetic and safety improvements around the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
On May 5, 2015, Clark County commissioners declared May 5 'Betty Willis Day' honoring the designer of the sign. Commissioners issued a proclamation to her daughter Marjorie Holland.
Use in souvenirs
The lights from the sign are removed and offered as a commemorative souvenir. OfficialLasVegasLight.com donates a portion of the proceeds from the sales to local charities.
In 2004, souvenir replicas of the sign that light up were sold to benefit the Nevada Cancer Institute.
On March 1, 2012, a business selling photos in front of a replica of the sign opened at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. This features an actual, physical sign located in the airport.
- Vegas Vic, another famous symbol of Las Vegas
- "Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties". National Park Service. May 8, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
- "Ask Mr. Sun: The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign". Las Vegas Sun. November 25, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
- "Welcome to Las Vegas Sign Turns Red". LasVegasVegas.com. January 31, 2008.
- Wyland, Scott (December 9, 2008). "Iconic sign more welcoming". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form" (PDF). National Park Service. October 2008. p. 5. NPS Form 10-900.
- "Las Vegas Goes Dark For Earth Hour". Las Vegas: KLAS-TV. March 28, 2009.
- Arseniuk, Melissa (May 14, 2009). "Goodman, Holly Madison welcome summer, set bikini record". Las Vegas Sun.
- "Las Vegas becomes Camp Vegas". Las Vegas: KTNV-TV. April 29, 2010. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- Schoenmann, Joe (April 17, 2012). "County to expand parking lot at Las Vegas welcome sign". Las Vegas Sun.
- nvshpo.org - Rebecca Palmer 775-684-3443
- "Betty Willis, Designer of 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' Sign, Dies". Las Vegas: NBC News. April 21, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- "New traffic, pedestrian signals lit at Vegas welcome sign". Las Vegas: Las Vegas Review-Journal. April 23, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- "Betty Willis Day: Commissioners honor creator of Welcome To Las Vegas sign". Las Vegas: KXNT-FM. May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
- "Las Vegas Lights". Officiallasvegaslight.com. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "Souvenir Replica of Famous 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' Sign Now Available for Purchase". Las Vegas Review-Journal. October 1, 2004.
- "Las Vegas Centennial license plate".
- Wingert, Gregan (March 13, 2012). "New business banks on tourists, Las Vegas sign, studio in McCarran’s baggage claim area". The Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.|
- Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
- Welcome to Las Vegas sign, from VEGAS.com
- Daylight photos of the sign, both Front and Back
- Iconic Neon Sign Survives Vegas Makeover NPR's radio interview with Betty Willis, October 3, 2006
- Live view of the sign
- Flickr Gallery