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FABULOUS LAS VEGAS

First Friday faces a turning point

A group of us made a sprint through First Friday on Thursday (I mean Friday) evening. Among us was a friend from Seattle who lived in Las Vegas for about five years, moving before First Friday was launched downtown five years ago.

We checked out Ginger Bruner’s photo exhibit of the Neon Boneyard at the FunkHouse. We slalomed through the many tents featuring artwork, crafts and trinkets on Casino Center Boulevard. We observed the impromptu dance exhibitions in the middle of the street, darted into the labyrinth of galleries at the Arts Factor and waded through many of the thousands of visitors to the quirky/funky Arts District.

At one point my friend remarked – loudly, to be audible above a band of young guys blasting out the rock ’n’ roll – “I’ve never been here before.”

“To First Friday?” I asked. “It wasn’t around when you lived here.”

“No,” he said. “Here, in this area. I’ve never been on this street.”

So five years on, that is the triumph of First Friday: Drawing the masses to the Arts District. The monthly art walk/community street party has its detractors, certainly. For more than a year, Jack Solomon of S2 Art Group has said he has little use for First Friday because the crowd it draws (much of it young revelers) would rather swill free wine and bound in the street to live rock music than browse for Todd Goldman lithographs. Many gallery owners agree with Solomon and have little use or tolerance for First Friday, but it has given locals (and even visitors who might have once lived in Las Vegas) a place downtown to convene. Those who do business in that area, particularly First Friday co-founder and Dust Gallery co-owner Naomi Arin, have said it is a mistake to use First Friday as a barometer for the success of the Arts District.

“First Friday is once a month,” she remarked to me in the spring when I was working on a profile of Solomon for Las Vegas Life magazine. “We’re interested in the other 30 days.” And in the next five years, because the Arts District of this Friday is not going to be the same mishmash of galleries, furniture stores and tire shops that it is today. Maybe the boys from REI Neon, like the band playing Casino Center on Friday, will finally find the notes and instill confidence in their investors that they can produce its $10 billion arena/resort proposal for that region.

Whether the Arts District can sustain First Friday in the face of such a volatile change in climate is uncertain. But five years ago, First Friday seemed nothing more than an amusing, if noble, prospect. There are enough people who care about that region – thousands of whom visit First Friday each month – to keep the downtown party alive, even for another five years.

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A chance sighting at the Griffin, after we’d finished our tour of First Friday, was Palms owner George Maloof. Just hanging out with friends. I couldn’t resist making my way over to him and, succumbing to my Inner Dork, telling him that the past two cover models for Las Vegas Weekly were in the same bar. He asked me to send him a link to the gun story I wrote this week, so I did that this morning and he e-mailed back, congratulating me for making the cover. I do not know what to make of all this.

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The trolleys that carry First Friday visitors to the Clark County Center and Holsum Lofts, and back, were wildly off schedule. They are supposed to run every 25 minutes, but at Holsum it was like: Trolley, 20 minutes, trolley, five minutes, trolley, hour, trolley. Quite a few people made the brisk, unsafe, walk from Holsum over to the Arts District.

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The fair at the pumpkin patch on Alta and Rampart offers an ATV course. The sign on the fence facing Alta reads – or, is supposed to read – “The Best Off Road Track Ever.” But the sign reading “Best” has either blown off or has been ripped off. “The (blank) Off Road Track Ever.”

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PL8 in my head: A lock (hah!) to make the blog is HAIRS2U on a silver Nissan Xterra.

Fabulous Las Vegas appears at this Web site. John Katsilometes can be reached at 990-7720, 812-9812 or at john.katsilometes@gmgvegas.com

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