BRETT’S VEGAS VIEW
Contributed by Jackie Brett
2021 PERSPECTIVE: Happy New Year! While the year has changed, not a lot will be changing the first quarter of 2021 or until COVID-19 is under control. Conventions and special events usually spend six months to a year and often longer for planning. Already ToyFest, a three-day event produced by the nonprofit Western Toy & Hobby Representatives Association Board, has canceled its plans to be at South Point in March, which would have been its ninth time in Las Vegas. ToyFest’s new date to return will be Feb. 28, 2022. Sadly, this is just one indication of how the first four to six months will go this year. Another indication is The Mirage starting the new year by shutting down totally Mondays through Thursdays due to lack of business. Mid-week traffic for resorts in Las Vegas is drastically affected by lack of conventions and events. The Mirage is remaining open on weekends and closing all its amenities, restaurants, and attractions from noon Mondays through noon Thursdays. If life were normal, the CES – Consumers Electronics Show would be coming to town Jan. 11-14, instead it will be virtual. Thus, 2021 is off to a slow start.
FESTIVE VIRTUAL ENDING TO 2020: Las Vegas brought the phrase “out with the old, in with the new” to life, in a cathartic implosion of a giant 2020 sign which read “Super Epic Monumental Kiss 2020 Goodbye Blowout” right before midnight. It was the destination’s livestreamed virtual New Year’s Eve celebration which included entertainment from Tao Group’s DJ Vice and fireworks. The celebration continued with music and the reveal of a massive LED lit 2021 sign with the message “What Happens in 2021, Happens in Vegas” erupting with confetti, streamers and fireworks blasting more than 200 feet in the air. Living up to the New Year’s theme, Las Vegas fans can enter a “Kiss Off 2020 Sweepstakes” online for a chance to win one of four 3-day/2-night trips, which include amenities and airfare to the destination in 2021, as well as share what they are most looking forward to in the new year. Entries will be accepted through Jan. 10, 2021.
HIGH DIVE INTO 2021: The STRAT made history on New Year’s Eve by holding its first ever “New Year Falling Star” countdown to midnight with a strategically timed daredevil leap from the top the 1,149-foot-tall tower. The inaugural leap was made by Las Vegas local, Ryan Smith, who won the coveted jump in an Instagram contest. Smith was dressed up in a custom-made suit fully illuminated in lights. The brightly lit ‘human star’ marked the countdown in a controlled descent from The STRAT’s world- SkyJump attraction. Confetti cannons erupted and a bottle of Dom Perignon were popped upon Smith’s descent, ringing in the New Year, Vegas-style.
WORLD SERIES OF POKER® MAIN EVENT® WORLD CHAMPION CROWNED: For the 51st consecutive year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 No-Limit Hold-Em World Championship, also known as the Main Event, crowned a world champion on Jan. 3, at the Rio. International champion Damian Salas of Bueno Aires, Argentina, played head-to-head in a first-of-its-kind showdown against U.S. champion Joseph Hebert of Metairie, La., and won. At stake was the World Champion title, an additional $1 million courtesy of Caesars Entertainment, Inc. and GGPoker, and the most valuable trophy in the world of sports – the 2020 diamond and gold encrusted WSOP Main Event bracelet. After 173 hands and nearly six hours of play, the final hand saw Salas call Hebert’s all-in before the flop with king-jack against ace-queen. Salas flopped a pair of kings to give him the lead, the turn card was no help to Hebert, and the river card sealed the deal with another king solidifying Salas’ victory. Having placed seventh in 2017’s Main Event, the 45-year-old South American powerhouse focused on redemption during his 2020 run. Salas won GGPoker’s international leg of the 2020 Main Event, defeating Brazil’s Brunno Botteon at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. Salas’ second time at the Final Table placed him in elite company as the first Latin American champion and one of only a few players to ever make it to the final table more than once. While Salas has thrived as a poker player, he is a family man and continues his day job as a practicing lawyer. The South American’s nickname, earned during his youth playing football, is “Pampa,” which means “the wild one, the country man.” The journey for Salas’ U.S. counterpart, Hebert, was no easy feat. The 38-year-old dominated the Main Event’s domestic leg in chip count from start to finish, winning $1,553,256 in dramatic heads-up play with runner-up Ron Jenkins at the live Final Table on Dec. 28. The champion unexpectedly lost his mother in September. In their final exchange, he told her his dream was to win a WSOP bracelet and dedicated this incredible run to her memory. Hebert has been a long-time grinder, gradually earning a top 200 ranking in the Global Poker Index by playing mostly in smaller stake, regional tournaments, including a WSOP.com $300 satellite event in which he won his Main Event seat. The 2020 Main Event made millionaires of both first and second place for the domestic field, and when combined with first and second place payouts for the international bracket, saw four players hitting the millionaire mark from the tournament. Total entrants were 1,379 combining the brackets. The World Series of Poker® is the largest, richest, and most prestigious gaming event in the world, having awarded more than $3.29 billion in prize money and the prestigious gold bracelet, globally recognized as the sport’s top prize.
THE GREAT GREEK OPENS ANOTHER VALLEY LOCATION: The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill opened its second outlet in Henderson, Nev., at 3552 St. Rose Parkway. As part of the recent grand opening weekend, $3,000 in proceeds were donated to the Nipton Loop Cyclists Go Fund Me campaign to help support the families of the local cyclists involved in the horrific highway accident in December which killed five bikers and injured three. The award winning Great Greek Mediterranean Grill was co-founded in 2011 by two third-generation culinary trained restauranteurs with more than 30 years of experience in the food and hospitality business. Nick A. Penna and Trent Jones purchased the Great Greek’s first location in Henderson. After opening two additional Las Vegas locations, they started franchising. The menu highlights salads, gyros, rice bowls, souvlaki, and falafel, plus baklava among the desserts. The next valley location will be at The Herbert, a mixed-use two-story, L-shaped building at the intersection at S. Main Street and Gass Avenue and across from the relocated Gamblers General Store. A future location will follow at The Bend at 8700 W. Sunset Road.
BROADWAY’S ADAM PASCAL VISITS THE SPACE: The Space will feature consummate performer and Broadway superstar, Adam Pascal, for a two-night engagement. Pascal’s “So Far – An Acoustic Retrospective” presents an intimate evening of songs and stories chronicling his amazing Broadway career from “Rent” to “Aida,” through “Something Rotten” to “Pretty Woman: The Musical.” Pascal highlights the good, the bad and the ugly sides of his personal journey navigating the world of musical theater. The star of the hit musical “Rent” on both Broadway and the Chris Columbus-directed film will grace the stage on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. As part of the ongoing partnership between The Space and BroadwayWorld, both performances will be broadcast live on BroadwayWorld. A limited number of tickets to Pascal’s live and in person shows are available for $30 each at The Space and can be purchased online, and patrons will be required to observe all current COVID regulations. New York native Adam Pascal started singing in rock bands when he was 12, playing the local New York club scene for many years, and has been performing as a solo artist, in bands, in movies and on the Broadway stage ever since. His most recent role was Edward Lewis in “Pretty Woman: The Musical” in 2019.
PINBALL HALL OF FAME ADDS FOOD TRUCKS ON SATURDAYS: The popular Pinball Hall of Fame museum at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue has begun the new year with a weekly food truck event in its parking lot on Saturdays from 2-8 p.m. The idea is for the truck lineup to rotate weekly, curated by The Feast of Friends promoters. This is a good fit because people can eat and play the pinball machines in the same location, while construction continues on a new location on Las Vegas Boulevard and is expected to open this spring.
RTC PARTNERS WITH TRANSIT APP: The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has partnered with Transit to provide customers with real-time crowding information directly via the Transit app. This new feature helps riders make informed decisions about trip planning and social distancing, which is helpful since RTC must operate at a 50-percent capacity during the pandemic. When users tap their route line in the Transit app, they see a map showing the live locations of transit vehicles along their route. The vehicle icon displays the last update of the vehicle’s location but also its current crowding level listed as “Many seats,” “Some seats,” or “Very limited seats.” This sort of information helps riders feel confident getting on the bus and makes a difference if you use a wheelchair or carry big luggage. Even after the pandemic, crowding information will be beneficial. Riders can also share how crowded they perceive the bus to be by using Transit’s “GO” step-by-step navigator. These crowdsourced reports, when compared against RTC’s passenger count data, provide important insights into how customers are feeling about crowding levels onboard. Transit is available to download for iPhone and Android at Transit app. Customers can purchase their pass within the Transit app, or via Ride RTC. Transit solves the urban commute in more than 200 cities worldwide. The app also integrates additional transport modes — bike-sharing, scooters, carsharing and ride-hail — so users can mix-and-match their options with public transit to determine the best way to navigate getting around.
PARTICIPATING RESTAURANTS CELEBRATE VEGAN DINING MONTH: Vegans, Baby is celebrating Vegan Dining Month, Jan. 1-30, for the 4th consecutive year in Las Vegas. Restaurant partners around town are supporting the initiative to explore plant-based meals. A list of restaurants can be found on Vegans, Baby’s website. For example, Border Grill at Mandalay Bay all month long is featuring dishes such as Vegetable Ceviche, Impossible Meat Nachos, Argentinian Empanadas, Smoked Tofu Bowl, and Mexican Chocolate Almond Cake. This year, a portion of the proceeds benefit Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
BOYD GAMING’S ‘WREATHS OF HOPE” HELPED MANY: Boyd Gaming due to safe social distancing by participants, changed their annual holiday fundraising event – voted Las Vegas’ “Best Charity Event” in the 2020 Best of Las Vegas awards – from “Trees of Hope” to “Wreaths of Hope.” Boyd Gaming also increased all cash prizes by a minimum of $500 to provide local nonprofit organizations with additional assistance during these challenging times. The cash prize amounts included a first-place prize of $3,000, second place $2,000, third place $1,500, and a guaranteed minimum $1,000 for all participants. Boyd Gaming awarded a prize pool of $60,500 to 35 Southern Nevada charities which participated in the Company’s sixth annual holiday competition. Winners were selected based on more than 88,000 customer votes cast from Nov. 23 through Dec. 16, both online and at seven participating Boyd Gaming properties: Aliante, The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, Cannery, and the California. In the spirit of the season of giving, Boyd Gaming awarded a surprise cash prize of $500 to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, which received the most votes, and an additional $500 surprise cash prize to the Boy Scouts of America, which received the most social media votes.