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A Look Behind the Neon Lights of Vegas

Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, is known for its neon lights, Elvis impersonators, and hospitality. One of the most iconic neon lights in Las Vegas is the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard, it is known to be a popular photo opportunity for tourists and locals alike. Its longstanding presence in the Las Vegas community is largely attributed to the reputation it has built over the years.

What is not known about the sign is its meaning and past behind it. Betty Willis’ Father, Stephen Whitehead, arrived in Las Vegas in 1905 and worked as Clark County’s First assessor. Betty Willis, born in 1924, grew up in Las Vegas. Betty Willis attended art school in Los Angeles, before returning to her hometown Las Vegas as a commercial artist. Her early beginnings of her career started in newspaper advertisements as she gradually made her way into designing neon signs.

She knew the ins and outs of neon signs but at that time, it was a man’s world. Until it wasn’t. Ted Rogich, a salesman, suggested Willis should make a sign that would welcome new tourists to the city. They worked hard on developing a sign that withheld significance to Las Vegas but would also catch the eye of visitors. The iconic diamond shape of the sign, standing at 25 feet tall, and its bright lights are just a few of its main distinctive features. 

When the sign had finally been completed, in 1999, Rogich and Willis sold it to Clark County officials for $4,000. Then it was placed on the southern tip of the Strip, where it still resides today. With its flashing lights and famous reputation, it will never fail to be a trademark of Las Vegas. 

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