The annual Helldorado Days begins Wednesday, May 14th!
The Elks and Las Vegas have been celebrating Helldorado every May since 1934.
Back then, the western themed celebration was started by Big Jim Cashman and other civic minded (and members of the local Elks lodge) businessmen as a way of promoting tourism.
Celebrating the town's western roots quickly became the theme. Bar-b-ques, parades, a whiskerino contest (who could grown the longest beard) were the favored activiities. A Helldorado Queen was chosen.
The whole town seemed to get involved with the locals and tourists alike dressing up in cowboy attire.
As the celebration grew in popularity, a Helldorado Village was built at Sixth and Fremont Street. Parades were added, an Old Timers Parade, a Kid's parade and the Beauty parade.
In 1946, Helldorado was so popular that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans made a film, Heldorado (note the title dropped the second "L" in the title because of the Production Code which was in place at the time), with the celebration as a backdrop. Roy and Dale became regular performers at the celebration.
In the 1950s the Helldorado parade rivaled the Rose Parade in popularity. Marching bands from neighboring states came to participate, as the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip opened, the P.R. men embraced the annual celebration and showgirls adorned the hotel floats.
Perhaps the pinnacle was reached in the mid-1950s with Sands Hotel's famed Ice Float that featured Robbie the Robot from the film, Forbidden Planet and ice skating.
The celebration had long since outgrown the small Helldorado Village on Fremont Street and the Elks built a new one just a few blocks north of Fremont Street (today where the freeway is). But they outgrew that one as well.
With the addition of the rodeo, the Elks decided a bigger place was needed and Cashman Field (named for Big Jim) was built.
Over the years, as the town grew the celebration seemed to lose its luster. When Fremont Street was closed to traffic, that seemed to be the death knell for Helldorado Days.
But, in 2005, with the 100 centennial celebration, Helldorado was brought back and crowds returned.
Today, Helldorado is celebrated not only with a rodeo and parade but events on and around Fremont Street. You may no longer get sent to the hoosegow for not having a Helldorado badge, but you can still partake in the fun.
For a schedule of events visit the Elks website here.