A sad chapter has been literally etched into Las Vegas tourist annals this week: The famed “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign greeting visitors to the vacation destination of the world on the Las Vegas Strip had red graffiti scrawled across the bottom of it and on the supporting legs on Monday.
Almost everyone visiting Las Vegas for the first time has made the sign a key stop in their pilgrimage.
Needless to say, the tagging of the historic Nevada landmark has made many Las Vegas residents, tourists and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman fighting mad when the graffiti was discovered and cleaned up later in the week.
Mayor Goodman said he was furious over the vandalism, saying, “When they graffiti’d my tortoise [new artwork on Las Vegas freeway walls], I said, ‘Off with their thumbs!’ This deserves ‘Off with their head!’” Though reconsidering -applicable retributions later during a radio interview, he said – not jokingly - that he would be content if the perps could be placed in public pillories, letting passerbys paint the offenders’ faces.
Authorities have still not arrested anyone for the vandalism and it’s unknown whether the graffiti is gang-related.
The Las Vegas sign designer Betty Whitehead Willis would probably roll over in her grave, too, if not for the fact that she is still living in Las Vegas after completing the project in 1959. Willis came up with the design after Western Neon was contracted by the Clark County Commission. The county offered the company $4,000 to build a sign to welcome visitors to Las Vegas.
The sign is currently owned by Young Electric Sign Co. (YESCO) and is leased by Clark County.
Last December, a $400,000 project to add parking spaces and a paved walkway on the traffic median holding the sign was finished. The improvements made accessing the sign easier for tourists — and, apparently, for vandals.
Tourists are beside themselves, saying they think the vandalism is a slap in the face, appalled by the actions of few, while racing to find people with Photoshop skills to make the red marks digitally disappear from their souvenir photographs.
More than just complaining about it all, some tourists provided potential solutions to prevent future eyesore acts, including ideas like making the sign a hologram like in the Sci-Fi movies, or just adding a security camera to the site. Currently, there are no security cameras on the site.
Sadly, this is not the first time the sign has received a historic pock mark. The site has also been the target of vandals in the past, according to the Clark County Department of Public Works.
“We just repaired that sign a couple weeks ago,” a YesCo sign spokeswoman said. “A couple weeks ago, somebody threw a rock through it.”
This new incident, though, marks the first time the sign itself has fallen victim to taggers.
In Nevada’s continuing fight against taggers, the Clark County Commission recently launched a Turn-In-A-Tagger program to combat graffiti, which costs the county millions of dollars a year. Adult taggers who are caught by Metro Police, North Las Vegas or Henderson Police officers could be sentenced to help clear up graffiti, officials said.
In May the sign was added to the National Register of Historic Places.