In addition to its regular Spanish language tours offered every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, The Neon Museum celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, through Oct. 15, with the addition of special Gallery Talks during general admission hours in the afternoon daily. These 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.
The Flamingo Hotel & Casino – 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.” Rodriguez is portrayed in the Museum’s Las Vegas Luminaries mural.
El Cortez Hotel & Casino – 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.
La Concha Motel – 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 a mention of Paul’s Sign Company, a neon sign company owned and operated by Mexican Americans. Founded in 1985 in California by Juan Macias and his wife, Ina, a neon bender. The company relocated to Las Vegas in 2007. It is still family owned and now operated by Paul, their 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.
Founded in 1996, The Neon Museum is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying, and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historical, arts, and cultural enrichment. Fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), on its 2.27-acre campus, The Neon Museum has an outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard; the North Gallery, home to the immersive audiovisual experience “Brilliant! Jackpot,” which uses technology to re-illuminate more than 40 non-operational signs; and its visitors’ center inside the former La Concha Motel lobby. The museum collection also includes nine restored signs installed as public art in downtown Las Vegas. Public education, outreach, research, and arts conservation represent a selection of the museum’s ongoing projects. For more information, including tour schedules and tickets, visit www.neonmuseum.org. Also, follow @NeonMuseum on Facebook and Twitter and @theneonmuseumlasvegas on Instagram.