Las Vegas should take a spirited approach and capitalize on Halloween

It’s time for Las Vegas to stake a claim on Halloween and turn it into one of those holidays you have to be here for at least once in your life.

We own New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day is no slouch. Spring break, if we can call it a holiday, is perfect because it often matches up with March Madness. Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day aren’t so much about the significance of those observances as they are about three-day weekends, which always fill our resorts.

Independence Day is “meh” because it’s so hot here — and you can never count on the Fourth of July creating a long weekend.

Thanksgiving is a turkey. So is Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa. It’s best to instead hang out with family and friends.

But Halloween is perfect because it fits so nicely with that “What happens here stays here” vibe we’re always trying to capitalize on.

Now is the time to jump into the Halloween fray because people are spending more money than ever before on the holiday.

A website called The Balance reports that more people are celebrating Halloween this year than ever before and that total spending and spending per consumer are at all-time highs.

The site says that in 2016, 171 million Americans are celebrating. They’re spending $8.4 billion, eking by the $8 billion spent in 2012. And the average spending per consumer is $82.93, far more than my household budget devotes to Halloween. But, of course, I haven’t gone out and purchased any twinkling orange lights to decorate my house, either.

Where do people travel to celebrate Halloween now? After consulting Fodor’s, I found, much to my surprise, that Las Vegas actually made the top 10 list despite the lack of a big, organized effort to collaborate for a citywide celebration.

The Strip is the recommended center of attention, with Circus Circus’ Fright Dome, the in-costume version of the property’s Adventuredome, the leading landmark.

Other Fodor’s-recommended Halloween locales include New York, West Hollywood, Atlanta and Chicago. Here are some more good ones: New Orleans (lots of cemeteries and celebrations of the dead); Sleepy Hollow, New York (thanks, Washington Irving); Kentucky’s Louisville Zoo (deemed more sweet than scary, it is also a family attraction); and Salem, Massachusetts (we all know what they did to witches there).

As one who grew up in Colorado, I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of the Halloween celebration in Manitou Springs, where they observe the Emma Crawford Festival and run coffin races. Crawford, a concert pianist, moved to Manitou, just outside Colorado Springs, to take advantage of the healing powers of the hot springs there when she was suffering tuberculosis. Alas, it didn’t work, but people celebrate her there anyway.

Las Vegas swung and missed at an annual Halloween observance in 2005, 2006 and 2007 with Vegoose, a music and arts festival staged at Sam Boyd Stadium and the surrounding fields. There were other musical acts at the MGM Grand, Orleans Arena, The Joint at Hard Rock and the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.

The talent at Vegoose was pretty good. Among the acts were Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Killers, Rage Against the Machine and a bunch of other groups whose names I swear were made up at the spur of the moment.

Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, who has made a career of developing special events in Southern Nevada, scratches his head when he looks back at the failure of Vegoose.

Maybe it was the curse of Sam Boyd Stadium being so far away from the Strip that hurt it. Maybe it was the fact that people attending couldn’t camp out, as they can at the dozens of music festivals that have sprung up all over the country over the years. Maybe it didn’t live past 2007 because the economy nose-dived.

Whatever the reason, Vegoose was cooked, never to return.

Christenson said that maybe it’s time to resurrect Vegoose or something just like it, now that Las Vegas has started to develop a positive reputation around its music festivals thanks to the successes of Life Is Beautiful, I Heart Radio and the grand champion, Electric Daisy Carnival.

One thing that Las Vegas Events is really good at is taking a centerpiece event like the National Finals Rodeo and building offshoot, separate venue activities around it. Most people who come to the rodeo in December don’t have tickets to the event but enjoy the western lifestyle associated with it.

They come for Cowboy Christmas, a craft sale at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the country entertainment that settles into the showrooms and arenas around the city during the 10 days that the rodeo is in town.

The common denominator for all those activities is that followers need a place to stay — the tried-and-true heads-in-beds formula — they need a place to eat and it doesn’t have to be just steak, and oh, yeah, they like to play a few hands of poker or blackjack.

With all the creative genius that resides in Southern Nevada, there has to be a fresh idea or two out there to build a must-do event for Halloween.

And there’s an added bonus. Nevada’s admission to the Union occurred Oct. 31, 1864, and the Friday before Halloween is a state holiday — another guaranteed three-day weekend for many residents.

There’s always a huge celebration in Carson City; if you’ve never gone, try it sometime. It’s a hoot.

Wouldn’t it be great to have our in-state rivalry football game played on that weekend? Somebody at the NCAA one day decided that all rivals should play at the end of the season, and that’s why the Wolf Pack and the Rebels don’t meet until Nov. 26 this year, the Thanksgiving weekend.

Won’t that be a joy when the snow flies early in Reno and one of the best games of the year draws just a few hundred hearty fans. Nevada should buck the trend and play the Nevada-UNLV game that last weekend in October or on Nov. 1 if Halloween falls on a Friday.

It’s time for Las Vegas and Nevada to own Halloween.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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