Our state’s landmark anniversary presents an opportunity for people across the state to remember and reflect upon our rich roots. In fact, Eldorado’s past, harkening back to the Great Depression, has withstood the test of time. The Las Vegas Helldorado event was created in 1934, a time of booming expansion into our Valley’s frontier – including the immense construction project of the Hoover Dam. The event’s purpose was to entertain and endear workers to settle down in the area, as well as attract visitors. The Elks Lodge No. 1468 decided to adopt the fledgling event and believed the annual production of Helldorado could provide just the kind of community spirit that would entice Dam workers and their families to stay in Southern Nevada. It was also the hope to enthrall visitors, encouraging them to return again and again to experience the living flavor of the Old West. The process took unexpected turns and was not without a hiccup here and there – but through both boom and bust– here we are today.
Needless to say, the idea worked.
Under the Elks Lodge’s supervision, and with support from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, Helldorado Days took off. Some of the original, more salacious activities, were replaced with family friendly parades, contests, and a rodeo. Each following year, the Helldorado festival expanded in both scope and reputation. In fact in 1946, the festival was so well known that Roy Rogers filmed a movie in Las Vegas with Helldorado Days as the backdrop. Award-winning marching bands from across the Southwest joined local school bands in the parade – resorts competed with local businesses for Best Float awards – the rodeo drew recognized superstars and a national audience. A beauty contest was added – and contestants ranging from bartenders and construction workers to casino executives and media personalities grew long beards and unique mustaches in the spring to compete in the “Whiskerino” contest. The festival was a source of community pride and inspiration. For long-time residents, it provided a cherished look back but also a time for looking to the horizon and forward-thinking. For newcomers, it kindled interest in our history and the spirit of our past.
But times, as they always do, changed. The city changed. By the late 1990’s, mega resorts and international cosmopolitanism eclipsed frontier charm. Dizzying growth and exploding tourism seemed to outgrow the fascination of our historical roots. With public support dwindling and production and marketing costs skyrocketing beyond feasibility, Helldorado began to fade into disarray.
However, in 2005, in celebration of Las Vegas’ 100th birthday and with help from the Las Vegas Centennial Commission, the Elks Lodge No. 1468 rekindled interest in the original spirit of Helldorado Days. The goal is to provide a fun, community event for locals and our families – and if out-of-town visitors want to join, they are more than welcome. Ultimately, the festival is about getting back to our roots, having some hometown fun and enabling large, generous donations to be made to many deserving children’s and veteran’s charities.
As we continue to bring back the glory days of Helldorado, this year we are very excited to announce several exciting new developments!
- The brand new rodeo grounds in the prime, expanded location downtown. Located near Symphony Park at 100 S. Grand Central Parkway, the grounds are right next to the Smith Center and across from the Discovery Children’s Museum.
- We are now a 5-day rodeo (May 14-18): starting again with the locals’ rodeo, three nights of PRCA and the entirely new day of Fiesta Del Charro.
- The Helldorado Rodeo and Parade are “Official Events” in Nevada’s 150th Anniversary Year Celebration (the Nevada Sesquicentennial).
To catch all the latest developments, the new location, tickets, parking and more, visit http://www.elkshelldorado.com/.
As Nevada celebrates its 150th birthday, Helldorado is celebrating its 80th! Bring the family down this year May 14-18 to watch a full scale parade, internationally renowned athletes, live music performances, “Whiskerino” contest, carnival food and more! Relive all the fanfare and excitement of the vintage boomtown west while supporting local charities!