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LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Neon Museum is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, with the addition of special Gallery Talks. The 15-minute talks highlight the history behind specific signs and properties that are relevant to the Hispanic community, including The Flamingo, The El Cortez, and La Concha.
Currently the oldest property on The Strip, opening in 1946, signage from the Flamingo in the Neon Boneyard dates to 1976 and was designed by Raul Rodriguez. An award-winning designer of floats for the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, Rodriguez designed more than 500 floats, including his first float when he was just 14 years old. While he worked for Heath and Company, Rodriguez visited Las Vegas and met with Barron Hilton, who had just bought the Flamingo hotel. Rodriguez would go on to design the iconic feathered Flamingo sign, noting that signs and floats are similar in design: “both are only granted a few seconds from viewers to catch their attention.”
The oldest continuing hotel and casino operating under the same name, opening in 1941, the El Cortez is on the National Register of Historic Places and famous for its interior and exterior Spanish Colonial design. The rooftop signage was installed in 1952 and still sits atop the building, 70 years later.
Meaning ‘the shell’ in Spanish, La Concha opened in 1961 and was next to the Riviera, across from Circus Circus on the north end of The Strip. The Neon Boneyard has La Concha’s restored shell-shaped sign as well as the iconic hotel lobby that was disassembled into 8 pieces, transported to its current location, and reassembled to serve as the Museum’s visitor center after the property closed in 2004.
The Gallery Talk concludes with mention of Paul’s Sign Company, a neon sign company owned and operated by Mexican Americans. The company is still family owned and operated by Paul, the original founders’ oldest son and the company’s namesake. Paul also became a neon bender, starting at the age of 12, and Ina still practices the craft too.
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