Sin City Shutdown – Is A New Era Ahead?


Las Vegas is poised to flip the power switches back ‘on’. Will it rise from the ashes and learn from its mistakes?

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On March 17th, 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak shut down the City of Las Vegas, along with the rest of the state, for a minimum of thirty days. In order to slow the rampant spread of COVID-19 aka “Corona Virus”, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shutter. This included bars, hotels, casinos, indoor-dining restaurants, gyms, spas, salons, movie theaters, shows, most stores, parks, recreational attractions and much more.

                                Caesars Palace Forum Shops and Bellagio….both empty…

Thousands upon thousands of people are currently out of work (myself included). Very few are receiving compensation from their employers during this dark period, leaving homes and families at risk for multiple hardships. Can a town that’s already endured major drops in tourism due to 9/11, 2008’s economic collapse and the 10/1/17 massacre rebound from yet another cataclysm?

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                  The party is over on Fremont Street…at least for the time being…

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             An insider source requesting anonymity sent these astonishing photos…

Will the stuffed suits in powerful boardrooms learn from their own mistakes…ones that were already dragging our tourist industry downward? What can be done to lure people back…and will we see a return to the perception of Las Vegas as a value destination? One can only hope.

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                  A darkened Wynn/Encore offers hope to the remaining few passers-by…

The days leading up to the Governor’s declaration were filled with unbearable tension. Grocery store shelves were plundered as major Strip productions shuttered one by one. Next came the closing of buffets and restaurants, then entire hotels and casinos.  Working parents suddenly had to figure out what to do with their children when all schools closed down this week.

                                 Town Square near McCarran Airport is a ghost town…

As in other cities around the world, mundane activities like getting a haircut or meeting friends for lunch are no longer part of our lives. Everything has changed in just a matter of days. Once it became clear that this was our new normal, a friend and I entered “survival mode”. I was just laid off from two regular writing gigs (supposedly temporarily, but who knows?) and he needed a place to live, so now I have someone to share expenses with…and lean on at the same time.

Having resided for 14 years in hurricane-prone South Florida, this writer was used to disaster preparation as a routine activity. Stock the pantry, refill prescriptions, get extra pet food and litter, withdraw cash from the ATM, gas up the vehicles and charge everything that uses a battery. Then comes more drastic steps like buying plywood to board up the windows, checking/replacing fire extinguishers and having weapons on hand in case violence ensues.

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All of this may sound drastic or even dramatic, but let’s face it…if people trample each other for a TV on Black Friday, what would they do when food and supplies run out? The answer isn’t an easy one.

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Despite the seriousness of the situation, many have been working hard to maintain hope…and a sense of humor. Facebook has been a great outlet for people to offer assistance, share their talents and keep each others’ spirits high. Cirque du Soleil performer Alberto Del Campo (read about him HERE) is hosting free online pole fitness classes.

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           Sing along with Mak and the Cheese – You Can’t Spell ‘Virus’ Without ‘Us’

Talented spouses MaKenzie Fly (Sex Tips) and Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show) have created “Mak and The Cheese” a Facebook page featuring witty songs and skits inspired by the “virus hiatus.” And yours truly hosted a “Sexy Apocalypse Party” at Palms Place, where shirts were optional (this is Sin City, after all).

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As we locals ride out the long month ahead in our own unique ways, it’s clear that we’ll come out on the other side as very changed people. Thousands will undoubtedly remain unemployed. Homes will be lost and crime rates will rise. Many businesses will most certainly close for good.

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                    The Bronx Wanderers toast their final performance…for now…

Entertainment offerings may no longer be the flashy, expensive productions (like Cirque du Soleil’s R.U.N) that have recently racked up millions in losses. Virgin Hotel (the former Hard Rock) and Allegiant Stadium completion dates will be pushed back. And you can forget about Resorts World and Fontainebleu/The Drew opening any time soon….yet again.

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The Governor’s announcement was like licking the stamp on a death notice that was waiting to be mailed. Las Vegas has been struggling for quite some time, mostly due to poor decisions that have turned an inexpensive, beloved retreat into a tourist-gouging cesspool of greed. The bigger the city has grown, the less forward-thinking it has become. What we as citizens saw and heard tonight will forever be embedded in our minds. But can we say the same about the big-company execs who are directing the city’s future?

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After the news conference, my new roomie and I gathered our wits and headed to the Strip to absorb the shocking reality of it all. What we witnessed were empty sidewalks, abandoned massive resorts, and shuttered storefronts. The world-famous Bellagio Fountains were dark, as was the Mirage volcano and the boardwalk along Treasure Island. Gone were the endless lines of taxis waiting to pick up tourists.

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Overhead, pedestrian walkways were void of people, and the outdoor escalators at each major intersection went silently up and down with nary a soul to ride them. Amusingly, they all seemed to be working for a change, now that there was nobody to use them. If you were looking for the company of others, all you had to do was head for the nearest dispensary, where people encircled the buildings, hoping to get their stash before mandatory shutdowns went into effect.

                  Lines at marijuana dispensaries stretched around the block…

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         “Visit Las Vegas” is airing nationwide TV promising a bigger, better Vegas…

Now that we’ve witnessed that fall of Las Vegas, where do we go from here? As I said, it will most likely be a very different place…but will it be better? Maybe the “new normal” will yield smaller-scale ideas, where charming lounge-style acts push multi-million-dollar headliner residencies out of the way.

                         Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport 3/18/20, 10am

Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in gaming, bolstered by better odds than visitors can get at their local casinos. And if we’re lucky, quality service by smiling human beings will shove out main offender MGM Resort‘s move toward automation and self-service. If I’m paying $50 for a buffet, is it too much to ask for an actual person to refill my iced tea?

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                                                    Found on my Facebook feed…

What Las Vegas REALLY needs is to learn a hard, definitive lesson from this punch to the stomach. Hotels must send parking charges out into the desert, never to return. People are sick of looking at their restaurant/bar tab and finding a laundry list of bogus service charges and taxes added onto their already-expensive bill. And when a hotel advertisement says “Stay here for $___”, that better be the actual rate. We’re done with $45 resort fees. Stop it…right now!

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There are only so many times that a city built on tourism can bounce back from major disasters. Las Vegas has survived at least three of them in the past two decades. If the corporations that run this city don’t push the “restart” button and bring back what made this city successful for decades, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to recover at all. Right now, the only thing we all share is hope for a better tomorrow.


UPDATE 5/19/20 – It appears that SOMEBODY has been listening to all of us who have urged the major resort chains to make changes. MGM Resorts and Cosmopolitan have announced that they’re dropping parking fees. As VitalVegas.com reported, Caesars had no choice but to do the same. Unfortunately, nothing has been done about resort fees. In fact, Cosmopolitan will be raising theirs from $39 per day to $45.

 

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Venetian/Palazzo is slated to unlock their doors on June 1st. The giant resort has launched a program called “Share the LOVE” and they’re showing their appreciation with an offer geared towards essential workers. MGM and Westgate have publicized their sanitation protocols, which I’ve elaborated on here and here.

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Sadly, there have been major layoffs during the interim, and some casinos have decided to label themselves as “Permanently Closed”, allowing for the termination of thousands of employees without recourse or compensation. Among them are The Palms, Fiesta Henderson, Texas Station and Rampart casinos (read more here).

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So….it’s a mixed bag at this point. One victory. one stalemate…and plenty of casualties. But everything remains in flux, with major announcements arriving in my email nearly daily. As hotels ramp up their reopening plans, it is in your best interest as a customer to investigate the best deals, best prices and best overall plan before you decide to return to Sin City. Good luck and have fun…..we’re (kind of) back!

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Click HERE to read this article’s companion piece: “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

Photos: Sam Novak, Bobby Watson, Kevin Janison, Marianne LeMoine Phoenix, Greg C., Bill Chenowith, Vin A., Andrew Hill. Special thanks to Richard Lindblom.

Banner photo: ABC News

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HALLOWEEN PARTIES AND EVENTS IN SIN CITY

Click HERE to read via BestOfVegas.com…

The Halloween season is finally here and nobody does it better than Las Vegas. Always filled with excitement and intrigue, the Strip and Downtown go all out in late October with special events, attractions, holiday-themed shows and nightclub parties galore. Prepare for outrageous costume contests, celebrity-hosted bashes and specialty cocktail creations that only Las Vegas could serve up.

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Here are a few of the many events taking place in and around the city:

Marquee Nightclub – The upscale venue at Cosmopolitan gets into the spooky spirit early this year with a “Seven Deadly Sins” party on Monday October 28th. Put on your sexy/scary best for their $7,777 Costume Contest and DJ Sam Feldt.

Barbershop Cuts and Cocktails – Cosmopolitan’s heavily-themed speakeasy/salon unleashes Faded Karaoke: Rocky Horror Picture Show Edition on Tuesday October 29th. Do the time warp during their weekly Industry Night for karaoke with a Halloween twist starting at 10 pm.

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On The Record – The new-ish speakeasy/club at Park MGM hosts three consecutive bashes for All Hallow’s Eve. Wednesday October 30th will be “$10,000 Scary and Sultry Costume Contest” during Industry Night Trick or Treat. Thursday October 31st presents “Little Monsters Ball” with a $10,000 Lady Gaga costume contest. Finally on Friday November 1st, “Nightmare In The Park: Day of the Dead” with a $5,000 Costume Contest and deejays G-Squared, Tony Tone and Judy Elahi.

TAO Nightclub – The longtime favorite at Venetian welcomes DJ Mustard on Halloween night, along with a $5,000 Costume Contest for a few lucky dolls and demons. The party starts at 10:30 pm.

Chateau Nightclub – The two-story indoor-outdoor venue at Paris offers a 21+ bash with gorgeous views of the Strip and sounds by Liz Clark starting at 10 pm. VIP Packages for groups of five and up are available, reservations are suggested.

LIGHT NightclubMandalay Bay‘s supersized club will be presenting singer/rapper Saweetie with a performance for Halloween’s LIGHTMARE. Be a part of the $10,000 Costume Contest beginning at 10:30 pm on the 31st.

Hakkasan at MGM Grand – Resident deejay Calvin Harris lights up the dance floor on Halloween night with special guest Generik. Adjacent Ling Ling Club will feature sounds by Toronto-based producer/deejay Dash.

OMNIASteve Aoki returns to Caesars Palace on Tuesday October 29th with “Armies of the Night 2: Unbreakable Hearts”. Then on Thursday, things get cosmic with Fergie as deejay for “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind” on Halloween night.

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Cocktail Collective at Venetian/Palazzo – This trio of upscale lounges at the Strip’s largest resort triples the fun with a bevy of spook-tastic offerings.

  • Electra at Palazzo has “Boos” specials in honor of fright night running the 31st through November 4th. On Halloween night they’re presenting a $1,500 dinner-and-bottle-service package to the largest group of coordinated costumers.
  • Rosina Cocktail Lounge honors “National Caramel Apple Day’ on the 31st. Enjoy Halloween-inspired cocktails like the Golden Apple (apple brandy, Four Roses bourbon, honey, lemon, all spice, and cinnamon) paired with a pumpkin-spiced caramel apple.
  • The Dorsey Cocktail Bar features three signature Halloween cocktails October 31st through Sunday Nov. 3:
  • Jame-O-Lantern – Jameson, Yellow Chartreuse, Antica Carpano, Chocolate Bitters, Orange Twist Garnish
  • Oogie Boogie – Altos, Falernum, Fresh Lime, Ginger Syrup, Allspice, Fever Tree Soda
  • Its Alive! – Absolute Elyx, Lime, Lemon, Simple, Matcha Powder, Egg White, Cream, Fever Tree Soda
  • Sample their Halloween cocktails for free between 10 pm-11 pm on Halloween night.

Golden Tiki Lounge – Chinatown’s famed destination for 24-hour fun is on Spring Mountain Road. They’re celebrating Halloween all month long with wacky live entertainment, campy cocktails and celebrity shrunken-head inductions. “Hauntingly Happy Hour’ is every day from 4 pm to 7 pm with half off all “boos and appetizers”.

Troy Liquor BarGolden Nugget offers the best view of Fremont Street’s Halloween madness at Troy Liquor Bar. Deejay Exodus provides a booming soundtrack and the dance floor will be open on the 31st until the wee hours of the morning.

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Speaking of downtown, the six block Fremont Street Experience is having a month-long “Rock of Horrors” extravaganza that features pop-up experiences and flash mobs. Live music with bands like Alter Igor entertain from the 1st Street Stage while the 3rd Street Stage presents the production “Wicked Dreams” with aerialists, dancers and alluring visuals. Halloween night’s Costume Contest will have a $1,000 top prize.

Of course, Halloween fun isn’t just limited to the nightclubs and bands. SAW Escape Room has unveiled new effects, actors and puzzles just in time for the season of scares. They’ve extended operating hours for the next few weeks due to increased demand, no doubt bolstered by their ranking in USA Today as the number one attraction of its kind in the nation.

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Apocalypse Vegas is featuring “Escape From Area 51“, a totally immersive new thrill experience. Get hands-on training by real Special Forces operatives before facing an invading alien invasion army. Take down the little green men and save the planet from total annihilation.

Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum – Step inside the frightening mansion in Downtown’s Art District and face your fears on a tour like no other. With over 30 rooms of horror featuring “The Funeral”, “The Devil’s Rocking Chair” “Dr. Kevorkian’s Death Van” and “Peggy the Doll”, you’ll be fighting off nightmares for weeks to come.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition – Numerous paranormal sightings have taken place at the attraction on Luxor‘s mezzanine level. From ghostly apparitions to moving objects and frightening after-hours security-cam footage, it appears that souls from the sunken vessel have found their way to Las Vegas. See if you can make contact with the dead at the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, open daily at 10 am.

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REAL BODIES – If your affection for the macabre leans towards the visceral, you may want to check out REAL BODIES at Bally’s. Immerse yourself in this raw, openly authentic and awe-inspiring exhibition on human anatomy. Featuring 20 real human specimens, you may never look at people the same way again.

Marvel’s AVENGERS STATION – The superhero attraction at Treasure Island is featuring $10 admission this month from Monday to Wednesday in honor of Halloween. The exhibit presents a family-friendly trick-or-treating event on Friday October 25th from 10 am to 7 pm. Guests will receive a free Marvel sack to collect goodies as they visit each room.

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Then there are the countless haunted houses, pumpkin mazes and carnivals that have filled up the valley this month. SCARE at Town Square combines them all into a multi-level attraction with an escape experience, phobia rooms, a haunted maze and an adult-centric nightclub. The top level features live performances, deejays and stunning signature cocktails (this writer’s favorite is the “Minty Ghoul”) and appetizers like “Zombie Bites”.

If you plan to head out west, PKWY Tavern Flamingo will be having a block party on  Halloween night. Check out their DJ, inflatable jousting ring, photobooth, LED Swing Set, Bacardi swag and giveaways along with delicious bar bites, festive Bacardi drink specials and a Bacardi cocktail sampling. Beginning at 10 p.m., partygoers who come dressed in their sexiest, scariest and most outrages costumes will have the chance to win $1,000.

Whatever you and and your ghostly companions choose to do this Season of the Witch, have a safe and happy Halloween in Sin City.

Photos: BestOfVegas.com, Alter Igor Band

 

‘Scare at Town Square’ is Halloween Fun With A Twist


Two-level seasonal attraction remembers that adults love Halloween, too…

It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.” – Sheriff Leigh Bracket, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978)

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We’ve made it to the first week of October, when awesome Halloween attractions pop up all over the city. From Mandalay Bay‘s Hallow Reef and Freakling Brothers to HallOVeen at Opportunity Village, there are fun events for every family member. Adults get their share, too, by way of Fetish and Fantasy Ball at Hard Rock Hotel and various costume-contest nights at Strip nightclubs.

Alas, there is very little, if anything, that brings both of these things together into one place…until now. Scare at Town Square is an innovative and elaborate two-story concept at Town Square near McCarran Airport that’s a ground-level all-ages thriller and full-on nightclub madness on level two. Something tells me that this is where you’ll find me several times the season….because, you know, it’s freaking HALLOWEEN!

Scare at Town Square follows a tried-and-true tradition of seasonal pop-ups like Spirit Halloween and Halloween City. Utilizing empty retail spots, they breathe new life into venues that have been ghoulishly abandoned, dusting away most of the cobwebs but perhaps leaving a few spiders intentionally around…

In the case of SCARE, we’re talking about moving into the massive former NECHE Restaurant/Ultra Lounge which has been transformed into “Stage Fright” live entertainment zone, “Zoe Escape Room” and an array of “Selfie Sets.” Drink service and amazing signature cocktails are provided by Born and Raised, the official bar of the Golden Knights.

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The main level, once home to Killer Shrimp, is where you’ll find a free family-friendly pumpkin patch, Haunted Maze, Phobia Rooms and a hidden speakeasy. The entire experience encompasses 15,000 square feet of chills, thrills and fun. Yes, this is a pretty big undertaking. And it’s all done on a Hollywood-sized scale with amazing effects, costumes, actors and props. From alien autopsies to a room filled with towering clowns and a 12-foot walking jack-o-lantern, your mind will surely be blown.

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                               Mark Trevino, Bonnie Pascua and John Good (l to r)…

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                       Andrea Dupper (Sales and Marketing) and a sinister Joker…

The concept of Scare at Town Square comes from the creative geniuses at Experience Productions, a local production/management/marketing firm. John Good, Bonnie Pascua and Mark Trevino are behind a wide variety of interactive experiences, production shows, exhibitions and festivals. They’ve brought in my super-ambitious colleague (and animal-rescue activist) Andrea Dupper, who heads up SCARE‘s marketing and sales. Together they’ve delivered what should be the surprise hit of the season.

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                                Fantasy film director Joe Lujan faces his clown phobia…

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                     Heartthrob Mark Justice and “Cole” of Heartbreak Hotel in Concert…

Andrea game me a personal tour this week during a sneak peek that was attending by a wide variety of celebrities, actors, horror/fantasy film director Joe Lujan (the Immortal Wars series). Lujan was accompanied by cast members including mega-hunk model/action star Mark Justice and lovely actress/talk show host Corey Taylor.

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                                                  Myself with Ricardo Laguna…

Heartbreak Hotel in Concert’s Cole accompanied his daughter to the festivities and joined Justice for a selfie in front of the giant Jack-O-Lantern. BMX pro, philanthropist, model and all-around good guy Ricardo Laguna came by to check out the thrills. Rumor has it that Jason Egan of Saw Escape Room and the legendary Fright Dome at Circus Circus made an appearance as well.

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       John Di Domenico, Andrea, Michele Rothstein, Ricardo Laguna and Amber Ramsay

No opening would be complete without an appearance by two of the brightest smiles in the city. Award-winning Trump impersonator John Di Domenico enjoyed some fun photo ops with companion Michele Rothstein, whose Balloons With A Twist can be seen at the biggest and most spectacular events in Las Vegas. They and others enjoyed sleight-of-hand by funnyman magician Michael Mayfield.

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                             Brittni makes the best “Witches Brew” in the city…

Throughout SCARE‘s 40 days and nights of…er….scares, there should be plenty of opportunities to see celebrities. Fridays will play host to “FANTASY FRIDAYS”, at 21+ costume party beginning at 10pm. It’s one of various add-on experiences you can enjoy. Rates vary based on weekday/weekend and escape room adventures require advanced reservation.

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The attraction runs through November 10th. You can get all the details including hours and pricing by visiting ScareVegas.com. Die-hard Halloween enthusiasts will appreciate the VIP unlimited passes which deliver the entire season’s excitement for only $125.00. Buy online and save 20% by using code “1ST2SCARE”.

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            Nobody does Halloween like the folks of Las Vegas…even after they’ve passed…

Photos: Sam Novak, Mark Justice, Ira Kuzma, John Good, Andrea Dupper, Michele Rothstein, Ricardo Laguna, Scare at Town Square

 

 

Going “Down South” on the Vegas Strip


My latest article spotlights the far southern end of the Las Vegas Strip…

Continuing with my series of freelance articles published via BestOfVegas.com, here’s an exploration into the far reaches of Las Vegas Boulevard….once you venture past the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” landmark sign.

It’s a trip worth taking.

www.bestofvegas.com/articles/down-south-vegas-strip/

Lace Your Shoes for the 28th Las Vegas AIDS Walk

 


Thousands expected to gather for fun, fundraising and public awareness…

It’s rare that I post actual press releases to this blog, but this one is perfectly written and give all the details you could hope for. So here it is, intact:

“Walk to the beat” at Aid for AIDS of Nevada‘s (AFAN) 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15 at Town Square. As AFAN‘s largest fundraiser, last year’s walk saw more than 5,500 walkers and raised $300,000 to support critically needed HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs.

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As Nevada’s largest and oldest HIV/AIDS service organization, AFAN provides supportive services to more than 1,200 clients including free HIV testing, prevention education, client transportation to healthcare providers, rent and utility assistance, nutritional counseling, food vouchers, mental health therapy and kids’ programs.

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                                    Grand Marshalls “Penn and Teller” 

Penn & Teller will once again serve as grand marshals for the 17th consecutive year and are encouraging walkers to take the Penn & Teller Challenge, matching every challenger’s $250+ donation dollar for dollar. The top challenger will be awarded AFAN swag and other prizes, including tickets to various Las Vegas shows.

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                                                “Miss Behave and Tiffany”

The walk will be hosted by presenting radio sponsors iHeart Radio‘s Marco and Joanna from the Sunny 106.5 Morning Radio Show, as well as “Sex Tips for a Straight Woman from a Gay Man” stars Scheana Shay from “Vanderpump Rules” and Chester Lockhart from MTV.

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             Cast members from Aussie Heat will be at the QLife booth…

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                                      Ruby Lewis of BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

The hosts will introduce awe-inspiring performances from Melody Sweets, cast members from WOW World of WonderNorma LlyamanRuby Lewis, and the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Broadway Collective.

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               Chippendales with last year’s guest host Tyson Beckford

In addition to the performers, Tony Dovolani and cast members from ChippendalesJennifer Romas from Sexxy the Show, (Westgate), Miss Behave Game Show (Bally’s), and several of Nevada’s public officials will make special appearances to support AFAN for its unyielding commitment to making Nevada AIDS-free.

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                                               Jennifer Romas of “SEXXY”

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In between being captivated by Vegas talent, walkers can visit more than 30 different vendor booths, ranging from local and national brand representatives or head to the carnival game area with little walkers.

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                                                          Antioco Carrillo

Said AFAN‘s Executive Director Antioco Carrillo:

This years’ AIDS Walk Las Vegas is more important than ever. With the dissolving of the HIV/AIDS presidential advisory council, funding for HIV/AIDS research and prevention has plummeted. AIDS Walk Las Vegas is a chance for community members to come together and raise their voices to support public health, social justice, and help make Nevada AIDS-free.

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Aids Walk Las Vegas

People of all ages are encouraged to participate in the 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas. Registration is free and attendees are encouraged to form a team and fund-raise to receive incentives. For additional information and to register, visit afanlv.org.
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Presenting sponsors of AIDS Walk include Penn & Teller, iHeart Media, Event Consultants, The Walking Company, Greenspun Media Group, and PDQ Printing.

 

Photos: Te Ann Lakeotes, Madison Freedle, Gary Kabik, one7 Communications, Aussie Heat, Jennifer Romas, Miss Behave, Antioco Carrillo