Las VEGAS is known for extremes — $1,000 martinis with gold- and diamond-encrusted olive picks, $60 burgers and the soon-to-open Wynn resort, built at a cost of $2.7 billion. So is it any surprise that when it comes to something as simple as a birthday cake, this city thinks big? Really big — like the 130,000-pound cake planned for the yearlong celebration of Vegas' centennial.
"This is the world's biggest birthday party," said Mayor Oscar Goodman. "It's a celebration to end all celebrations."
Among the events marking the centennial are historical exhibits, concerts and just plain silliness. The festivities began on New Year's Eve with a giant fireworks display, but the real party starts next month, with a Centennial Fly-By on May 7 when antique aircraft will fly over the Las Vegas Strip. Then it's Helldorado Days, a Wild West-themed celebration featuring a parade on May 14 and a Western village, with livery stable and general store, at the Fremont Street Experience from May 10 to 15.
May 15 is Las Vegas' actual birthday, and the really big cake will be cut and consumed at Cashman Field while Kool & the Gang, the Boogie Knights and the Flying Elvi entertain.
Among other events:
In June, 100 couples will be wed under the Fremont Street canopy.
From June 10 to 18, the CineVegas Film Festival (www.cinevegas.com) will show a selection of movies made in Las Vegas — among them 1995's "Showgirls" and 1964's "Viva Las Vegas" — at the Palms Casino Resort.
The Aviation Nation Air Show, Nov. 10 to 12 at Nellis Air Force Base, will feature military performers, including the Air Force Thunderbirds. Contact http://www.worldofwings.com .
But the million-dollar question: Who will be the headliner at the Centennial Bash on July 2? That's one secret that the usually talkative Goodman is keeping. "Oh, I wish I could tell you, but I've been sworn to secrecy," he said. "It's a giant entertainer, and the best thing is it's going to be free."
So where can a visitor find the history the city is celebrating?
Many things, such as the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, built in 1855, and railroad cottages have been preserved, said Michael Green, a Las Vegas historian and a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada. It's only the Strip that has been stripped of its history.
"It's really only the hotels that go," Green said. "A joint's a joint. I hated to see the [Desert Inn] and the Sands go, but an older hotel wouldn't be able to compete. There would be less of an attraction for people to come here."
For more information on the centennial events: (702) 229-2005, http://www.lasvegas2005.org .