The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. Erected in May 1959, the sign’s background and history are distinct and quirky, much like the city itself. While millions of tourists and locals are familiar with the sign, most probably don’t know about its background. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign that will fascinate you.
The Las Vegas Sign isn’t in Las Vegas
Many people would probably be surprised to learn that the Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas sign isn’t actually in Las Vegas. It resides four miles or so outside of the city limits. Technically, it lives in Paradise, Nevada, which is an unincorporated town in Clark County. To be fair, most of the Las Vegas Strip is in Paradise.
While the Las Vegas Sign is undeniably iconic, a “Welcome to Paradise” sign probably would have been just as famous. A “Welcome to an Unincorporated Clark County Township” sign would have lasted as long as one of Flavor Flav’s Las Vegas eateries.
Created by Betty Willis
The Las Vegas sign was created by artist and designer Betty Willis. Born in nearby Overton, Willis was responsible for several classic Las Vegas signs, including the ones for the Moulin Rouge and Blue Angel Motel. Many consider her one of the chief contributors of Las Vegas’ visual design, which was a key ingredient of the vibe that made the city such a popular destination.
While the Moulin Rouge and Blue Angel Motel are long gone, millions of people see Betty Willis’ timeless work every time they visit the city. Additionally, the buxom cherub from the Blue Angel Motel has appeared at the Neon Museum. The angel is currently being restored so that she can crown a traffic pole at the intersection of Charleston Boulevard and Fremont Street, a few miles from her original home.
It’s Not the Original Las Vegas Sign
Before it became a mesmerizing melange of world-class casinos, restaurants, shows, spas, and more, Las Vegas was merely a stopover on the way to the exciting and new Boulder Dam project (now known as Hoover Dam).
A sign that read “Welcome To Las Vegas The Gateway To Boulder Dam” adorned the intersection of Fremont Street and Main Street in 1929 for a government meeting. The sign was taken down in 1931 after Boulder Dam construction started.
It’s funny to think that Las Vegas was once considered a modest gateway to Boulder Dam. These days, many Las Vegans think of Boulder City as a lovely little retirement community that serves as the present day gateway to the dam.
The Las Vegas Sign Was Never Copyrighted
Although it was originally owned by Western Neon and currently owned by YESCO, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was never copyrighted or trademarked. Betty Willis wanted the image to be public domain and called the Las Vegas sign “my gift to the city.”
The downside is that millions of products featuring the Las Vegas sign have been sold and many of them are of dubious quality. T-shirts, caps, keychains, shot glasses, pint glasses, blankets, throw pillows, and more that feature the sign have been sold to many tourists. Willis never made any merchandise money off of her creation, something she regretted late in life.
Although Betty Willis never benefited financially from the Las Vegas sign, its image has been used for charitable causes. The sign adorns the “Las Vegas Centennial” commemorative license plate issued by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. Proceeds from this specialty plate go to the City of Las Vegas for historic preservation projects.
The centennial plate is one of the most popular specialty plates offered by the state. There are more than 90,000 currently active and they have generated more than $2-million for the City of Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Sign Inspired a Killer Song
The Killers’ lead singer Brandon Flowers is one of Las Vegas’s most famous sons. His first solo album, Flamingo, was heavily inspired by his hometown. The album’s lead track is called “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.”
Solar Powered Since 2014
Clark County’s Office of Sustainability, ImpactNV, and the Clean Energy Project partnered in 2013 for a project to make the city’s famous sign double as a flagship for sustainable energy. The Las Vegas sign has been running on solar power since 2014.
The sign’s 99 lightbulbs are fully powered by solar energy, thanks to an array of three “solar trees” with a total of 18 photovoltaic cells. The county claims that the sign is a shining example of “how a community or business can reduce their energy consumption and replace it with renewable energy sources.”
Vegas Golden Knights Secondary Logo
The secondary logo for the Vegas Golden Knights was inspired by the star in the Las Vegas sign. The diagonal lines have been replaced with crossing swords, making the logo more appropriate for an NHL team named the Knights while still serving as an homage to the iconic sign.
UNLV Hey Reb! Has Eyes For You
UNLV Rebels mascot Hey Reb! was given a redesign in 2017. Part of his modernization was adding a gleam to his eye. The sparkle is shaped like the star from the Las Vegas sign. Man, that star gets around.
While the tribute to the sign was a nice touch, fans were unimpressed with the overall design. Unfortunately, UNLV decided to phase out the modern Hey Reb! at the end of 2018. Hopefully, the next design will also pay tribute to the city, but without looking like a bad version of Longshot from the X-Men.
Las Vegas Lights Crest
The Las Vegas Lights has a logo that it proclaims as 100% Las Vegas. Las Vegas’ USL Championship soccer team has a crest that uses a font inspired by the city’s neon lights, the official colors of the City of Las Vegas, and a star based on the city logo. The shape of the crest mimics the shape of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, but turned 90 degrees. The logo honors the city and reflects the team’s ability to twist its opponents with killer Cruyff turns.
Sign of the Times
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning some of the history behind the unforgettable Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Now that you know more about the sign, it’s time to make plans in the city it welcomes you to. Check out our website for the best things to do and places to go in fabulous Las Vegas.