Museum starts night tours of signs from Vegas past
A tourist takes a photo at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas on Friday, May 24, 2013. For the past six months, visitors have had to squint up at the hulking metal forms through the desert sun. On Friday, the museum unveiled nighttime hours. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The junked signs that attracted throngs to old Las Vegas have for years gathered dust in a neon boneyard just a few miles from the sleek mega-casinos on the Strip.
This Memorial Day weekend, the hulking metal come-ons are once again glinting and shimmering at night.
The Neon Museum, where Sin City's most iconic signs go to retire, has begun aiming more than 100 multicolored spotlights on its outdoor collection of 150 signs. It's also extending hours for nighttime tours, and a handful of signs have been fully restored with new bulbs.
Since October, visitors have been able to meander past the Silver Slipper, Aladdin's lamp, the Stardust marquee and dozens of other signs saved from the wrecking ball. But the museum closed at 5:30 p.m., meaning that tourists had to squint through the desert sun to glimpse the old guardians of this nighttime city.
For the first time Friday, visitors were able to behold the fully restored signs in all their luminescent glory. The dozens of other markers were bathed in custom-designed spotlights, like true Vegas showgirls.
"The skyline of Las Vegas is a nighttime skyline," said executive director Danielle Kelly, moments before the first afterhours tour came through.
"We stand among the architecture of this city. The notable architecture of this city is its signage. And their illumination is when they came alive," Kelly said.
In a town known for detonating buildings that are beyond their prime, Las Vegas' Neon Museum stands apart in its zeal for salvaging the blinking, glowing memories of the past.
Tourists look at old hotel and casino signs at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas on Friday, May 24, 2013. For the past six months, tourists have had to squint up at the hulking metal forms through the desert sun. On Friday, the museum unveiled nighttime hours. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Kelly says time has transformed the signs from commercial emissaries into objects of art.
The hour-long guided tours bend through the artfully cluttered 1.5-acre lot. The excursion offers an alternative to the mega-mall homogeny along the desert metropolis' revamped main drag.
Worn by the beating sun and twisted by desert winds, most of the marquees have lost their flash, some of their bulbs and much of their paint. They tilt toward each other like tombstones in an ancient cemetery. But taken together, they tell a story about the town's glitziest days.
There's the nouveau graveyard's oldest sign: a green and white 1930s relic that marked a restaurant where Hoover Dam construction workers bought fried chicken and bootleg whiskey.