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Rock in Rio report: From Lisbon to Las Vegas, the guitar has been passed

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Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa passes the Rock in Rio torch (in this case, a ceremonial key and two guitars) to MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle. Rock in Rio Owner/Founder Roberto Medina is seen in the background.
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The Las Vegas edition of the Rock in Rio music festival has officially been welcomed into the fold.

During a press event Friday evening, Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa passed along a ceremonial key and two guitars to MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle and Cirque Du Soleil Senior Vice President Jerry Nadal, the American masterminds of Rock in Rio USA, which will be held in May 2015 on the Strip.

The passing of the torch—er, guitar: Friday evening Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa passed along a ceremonial key (and two guitars) to MGM Resorts International and Cirque du Soleil, who will present Rock in Rio USA on the Strip in May 2015.

The passing of the torch—er, guitar: Friday evening Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa passed along a ceremonial key (and two guitars) to MGM Resorts International and Cirque du Soleil, who will present Rock in Rio USA on the Strip in May 2015.

During the exchange of props and pleasantries, Rock in Rio Owner/Founder Roberto Medina emphasized his grandiose goals for his first-ever American music festival. "There will be a lot of new elements for this project," he said, sitting in between Costa, Hornbuckle and Nadal.

It was Nadal who introduced Hornbuckle to Medina, who he had known thanks to Cirque du Soleil's tour routing through Brazil. Previously, Medina had pitched an American Rock in Rio to various entities in New York City, his initial target city, and Los Angeles. Neither city bit, but after speaking to Nadal and Hornbuckle, Medina went with Las Vegas.

Hornbuckle seemed gobsmacked by the Rock in Rio Lisbon production, but promised to top it. "With the platform [Medina] has created, with the Strip in the background...we will make [Rock in Rio] rock like never before."

Then, as he and Nadal were given the key and guitars, Hornbuckle pretended to smash the guitar into the ground. Good thing he didn't actually follow through—it's a working guitar.

Rock in Rio Owner/Founder Roberto Medina (left) and MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle.

Rock in Rio Owner/Founder Roberto Medina (left) and MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle.

And that probably would have been bad form. After all, Rock in Rio USA could boost MGM's Brazilian customer base—as the festival will be heavily promoted to Medina's countrymen—as well as its corporate-partner portfolio, as Rock In Rio heavily incorporated sponsors to keep production and ticket costs relatively low.

Everyone wins on this one, though. Rock In Rio will finally acquire a foothold in the States, grow out its slowly-evolving event and also have the opportunity to expand its branding roster. Cirque du Soleil, who will act as a consultant and co-presenter, will be afforded its biggest chance yet to diversify its Vegas entertainment offerings.

And Las Vegas gets more tourist money and, of course, another major music festival. In 2010, we had none. Who would have thought five years on—and counting the Electric Daisy Carnival creator's plans to bring two other existing events to Las Vegas—we'd have six?

Alas, the symbolism of that passed guitar stretches beyond Rock in Rio.

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