Raising Helldorado

Helldorado Days returned to its full form last year with a rodeo, carnival and parade anchoring the event for the first time since 1997.

This year, the event's planners hope to iron out the kinks presented by erecting a temporary rodeo arena downtown, says Esther Boyter, rodeo planner and production coordinator for the city's office of cultural affairs.

The biggest obstacle last year was alerting people that the rodeo was in a temporary arena downtown and not at the Thomas & Mack Center or Cashman Center, Boyter says. This year, the rodeo and carnival will again be at the temporary rodeo grounds bordered by Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street between Mesquite and Stewart avenues today through Sunday .

"Everything was good for our first year back and for being in a new location," Boyter says. "I think it took people a few days to get used to it. Now, we're looking to make it bigger and better."

Last year, about 20,000 people attended Helldorado Days, Boyter says, and a similar crowd is expected this year.

Helldorado Days started in 1934 as a tribute to the Old West and quickly became a popular local tradition. The rodeo started in 1944. The event ended in 1997 when the Elks Lodge could no longer afford to produce it. The city resurrected it in part for the centennial celebration in 2005, sans rodeo.

Proceeds above production costs go to fund several local children's charities through the Elks Lodge, Boyter says. It costs $500,000 to produce Helldorado Days, with all money coming from sponsorships, she adds.

"Our goal is to bring it back to when it was the heyday of Las Vegas," Boyter says. "I think this community still has heartstrings tied to Helldorado and we want to make it into a real community event people can relate to."

Improvements this year include better bleachers for the rodeo, with a premium row of seats with fold-out chairs. A concessions tent also has been added to cope with the potential heat. Several vendors will sell food and drinks, and attendees can sit in the shade if needed.

A bar tent will entice cowboys and others to stay downtown after the rodeo. A DJ will spin country music, while bartenders work a cash bar.

A treasure hunt was added, sponsored by Sahara Coins. It started May 1, and people can still join in through today. The winner of $10,000 in gold coins will be announced Sunday.

The carnival grounds open today at 5 p.m. with tonight's rodeo at 7. All local riders will be featured, and children less than 70 pounds can compete in the Mutton Bustin' ride, in which they ride sheep.

Saturday's parade, from 7 to 9 p.m. along downtown's Fourth Street parade route, will feature more than 120 entries.

Friday's rodeo starts at 8 p.m.; Saturday's at 9 p.m. after the parade; and Sunday's at 7 p.m. The carnival will open at 5 p.m. every day.

Thursday, all tickets are $10, with kids 10 and younger admitted free. This includes admission to the carnival grounds, but rides cost extra.

Friday through Sunday, general admission for the rodeo and carnival for adults is $15; children 12 and younger, $8. Ride tickets cost extra and prices vary. Some bleacher seats feature fold-out chairs and cost $25 regardless of age.

For those wanting only carnival access, admission is $3 plus the price of individual rides.

For more information, visit elkshelldorado.com.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.