“Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.” You don’t need to travel to Nevada to know where to find that famous slogan. Every tourist that enters the city at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South is greeted by that welcome message outlined with bright, bold, flashing lights.
THE BRIGHT IDEA (AND PEOPLE) BEHIND THE SIGN
The famous 25 ft. historic landmark in Las Vegas dates back to 1959 when Betty Willis built the sign at the request of local salesperson Ted Rogich. Ted started a neon sign company after moving to Las Vegas and admired the ways the casinos, hotels, and restaurants advertised with neon signs, but he found that there wasn’t a sign advertising the city itself so he recruited the help of Willis.
Willis, a graduate of an art school in Los Angeles, worked in Las Vegas as a commercial artist and neon sign designer. She thought of her contribution as a gift to the city and therefore never copyrighted the design. It was also a bargain to build at only $4,000.
“Most people are surprised when they find out a woman designed the sign. It was a man’s business back then. It wasn’t a woman’s field because when you work with neon signs, you have to not only design them, but you have to learn the nuts and bolts of how neon, light and electricity work. You have to learn about pressure points and weight and wattage of lamps. You work with engineers as well as artists. Most women back then weren’t interested in such technical stuff,” Willis said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-times.
THE MEANING BEHIND THE DESIGN
The meaning behind the words written on the Las Vegas, Nevada sign were simple. Willis thought of a word that perfectly represented the city and went with it.
“We thought the town was fabulous, so we added the word,” Willis said in a 2005 interview with The New York Times. “There was no other word to use.”
If you look closely at the “Welcome” in the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” you’ll see that each letter of the word is in seven white circles. These circles are meant to represent silver dollars as a nod to Nevada’s nickname, “The Silver State.” Willis designed the sign in Googie architecture style, which was a popular style during the 40’s and 50’s, and combines “futurism, the Atomic Age, and car culture.”
THE VISIT IS WORTH IT
Even if you’re not interested in gambling or seeing a show in Las Vegas, visiting to take a picture of the famous sign, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is worth it.
While most know what the message on the front of the sign reads, there is also a lesser-known “goodbye” message located on the back of the sign. Those leaving the city will see a message that reds, “Drive Carefully. Come Back Soon.”
But if you’re not ready to say “goodbye” to the fabulous sign when your vacation is over, you can own a piece of the sign for yourself. When the lights on the sign are replaced, the bulbs are sold as souvenirs, and a portion of the proceeds are donated to charities.
While the popular saying goes, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” that same saying does not carry true to Willis’ creation. The recognizable sign is known worldwide and many people travel there to get their picture in front of the postcard worthy monument.
GET YOUR OWN FABULOUS SIGN
If you’re in need of your own fabulous neon sign to attract customers to your business, contact Bartush Signs today! We will help you design a custom, picture-worthy sign that will also go down in history.