Most kids came with grocery bags. Those who forgot turned their hats and shirts into baskets for candy.
“My kids say it’s better than Halloween,” said Frank Dobbs, who was there with his wife, Laura, their children, Christopher and Christina, and other relatives.
The family has attended the Helldorado Parade since it was resurrected in 2005. The downtown parade was canceled in the late 1990s due to lack of sponsorship, but started again in 2005 to celebrate Las Vegas’ 100th anniversary.
“Every year our spot gets bigger and bigger,” said Dobbs, who had one of the most elaborate setups on the sidelines, with a shade structure, large American flag, folding chairs and cooler. “The kids love it.”
Horse fans, veterans, historical societies, politicians, school bands, beauty queens, car clubs, public servants and social clubs braved strong winds and warm temperatures to participate in the historic event on Fourth Street.
Helldorado began in 1934 when Arizona carnival barker Clyde Zerby established a Wild West-themed party for Hoover Dam workers and tourists. Fearing the workers would leave town once construction was finished, the Las Vegas Elks Lodge decided to carry on the annual production to give people a reason to stay.
The once-rowdy party was transformed into the family-friendly event it is today, which includes the parade, contests, carnival and rodeo.
This year, the rodeo moved to a new location near the Smith Center. Previously, it was held across the street from the old city hall.
Where it was once a strictly “Wild West” theme, Helldorado has grown today to reflect Las Vegas’ diverse population.
Native-American, Asian, African-American and Mexican cultural groups participated, as did hobbyists and various dance teams.
The Kahlani Folkloric Dance group was among the most decorative processions. Representing Filipino culture, the group led with women dressed in intricate, brightly colored dresses, followed by dancers in traditional garb.
“We perform to share our culture,” said Yayo Gilberto, who has walked in the parade the past two years.
“We hardly wear this unless it’s very formal,” she said of her green lamé Maria Clara-style gown, with delicate flower accents and a shoulder wrap.
The Nevada Civil War History Association’s large, silver people-powered representation of a Civil War-era ironclad ship — flying both Confederate and early U.S. flags, among others — was a standout, though many mistook it for a spaceship.
Helldorado is Las Vegas’ longest-running civic event and is deemed a “signature event” of the Nevada Sesquicentennial Celebration, which marks 150 years of statehood. Events continue through today.
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3809. Find her on Twitter: @kristy_tea.