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Las Vegas has learned plenty in 5 years of Life is Beautiful

Updated September 18, 2017 - 12:22 pm

Five years of Life is Beautiful have provided many lessons about how to make life a little more bearable for downtown Las Vegas residents when a broad swath of their neighborhood is closed off and brimming with revelers.

Since Life is Beautiful’s 2013 inception, festival organizers have added a shuttle that ferries downtown residents around the 18-block perimeter, a community trailer and a community hotline, outlets for downtown residents’ concerns and questions.

Tweaks over the years have made Life is Beautiful weekend better for locals, but people always will be inconvenienced, Councilman Bob Coffin said.

“We live in an entertainment city, and downtown we’re in Disneyland. There’s no getting around it,” Coffin said. “If you want to live a quiet life, downtown is not a good place to live.”

From Friday through Sunday, downtown Las Vegas will again morph into a melange of music, art, food and comedy. Last year, more than 137,000 people attended the three-day festival, pumping $43 million into the local economy, according to a study by R&R Research.

Homes, churches and businesses are inside the blocked-off festival footprint, roads are closed more than a week in advance, and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada bus routes are diverted.

Neighborhood issues

Street closures started last week, and by the time the festival starts, closures will sweep across much of downtown from Las Vegas Boulevard to Maryland Parkway. That adds a barrier for residents who live inside the festival’s borders and for people trying to access anything inside the 18-block area that weekend.

The Rev. Courtney Edward Krier of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Ninth Street acknowledges Life is Beautiful weekend has improved from year one, when he said parishioners trying to get to Mass were turned away.

“It has improved, as compared to all of a sudden it’s in our backyard,” Krier said. “The first year was a complete disaster — people couldn’t even get to Mass.”

The second year was another battle; year three still posed parking problems, Krier said.

This year, Krier hopes cards parishioners can carry indicating they’re bound for worship — not trying to slip inside the festival without a wristband — is the solution they have been seeking.

“That’s what we’re looking at now,” Krier said. “We’ll find out what happens.”

Lessons learned

The festival’s community trailer, a new addition at last year’s event, will open Tuesday at Carson Avenue and Sixth Street. Residents and business owners can walk up to talk to a Life is Beautiful representative. The hotline was added a couple of years ago and has received a lot of use every year, festival organizers said.

“The first year, obviously, we learned a lot of lessons. It’s a lot of communication on their (the organizers) end,” the city’s special events administrator, Esther Reincke, said. “Every year it’s gotten better, but it’s an event where you’re closing down downtown, and you have residents. It’s a big undertaking.”

Each year, the city holds a meeting for downtown residents with Life is Beautiful organizers. About 20 people showed up this year, Reincke said. The city also takes complaints to the organizers to “make sure they’re reacting to those complaints and to make sure they’re being heard,” Reincke said.

Noise has created issues in the past, too, another area in which the city pushed for tweaks based on community concerns, Coffin said.

“We’ve had them make adjustments so there’s no early noise, and it conforms to the night noise, too,” Coffin said. “Speaker testing, mic checks, band practice — they’re not doing that early. They were doing it early in the old days.”

The community complaints have dropped, city officials and festival organizers said.

“We’ve learned every year,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “The planning has been great, and I’m very comfortable. I think this year is going to be better than ever.”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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