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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 • Posted March 4, 2009

Happenings in Vegas…

Column #305 for Release Saturday, February 28, 2009, or Later

It was an attention-getter for sure, the headline about the convention and visitors authority flying a “small town” to Las Vegas for a stress-relieving vacation.

Sure, thought I, envisioning make-believe communities like Broadway’s Brigadoon, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, or perhaps Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, flying toward the world’s most frequented entertainment mecca. Other possibilities were the mythical Tuna, billed as “Texas’ third-smallest city,” and “The Thicket,” where my Uncle Mort lives. (Thicket boundaries are not official, so population numbers are vague, but I think it is smaller than Tuna.)

But wait. Invitees were from Cranfills Gap, TX. That’s a real town, a scant hour from where we live. And the little town was previously known most for its annual Septemberfest, lutefisk dinners and community center goings-on. “The Gap” captured the prize among the 125 under-500 population towns considered….

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But win it did, and late in the year, Mayor David Witte and a Gap contingent of 100 boarded a chartered jet in Waco for an all-expenses paid, four-day visit to Las Vegas. (With snow closing the airport on their last scheduled day, they got an extra 24 hours.)

Most of them had never been to Las Vegas, some had never previously flown, and a few had never been out of Texas. Certainly none had ever been surrounded by film crews assigned to get miles of photos for an advertising blitz to follow. After all, the CVA is spending $2.5 million on the year-long project to promote a city hard-hit by economic downturns.

The celebrants, one of whom graded the whole deal as an “A” with a bunch of plus marks after it, left little undone. Consider Billye Dunnahoe, who’d dreamed of skydiving on her 80th birthday. That’s what she did at Vegas Indoor Skydiving, though her four-score birthday is still a few months away. Her friend,Georgia Beth Gustafason, accompanied her on the dive. She’s 81….

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Our interest piqued, my wife and I decided to visit LV, checking out places we thought might interest readers, determined to be involved in no happening that “had to stay there.”

A vignette from A Tuna Christmas comes to mind. Maybe you remember the part where several Tuna Baptists vacationed in Houston.

They said they had so much fun, they started claiming to be Episcopalians….

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Be it hereby noted that our four-day visit turned out to be highlighted by a spiritual experience. It occurred on a rugged 38,600-acre tract given to Nevada by the Feds in 1935—the Valley of Fire State Park.

We spent several hours there with Annie Bananie’s Wild West Tours, operated by Annie and her husband, Buck.

On an ancient ceremonial rock where Indians once worshiped, Buck prayed for peace, then placed his lips against a large animal horn. The mournful sounds bounced softly off the mountain walls on echoes’ wings. With cameras and cell phones pocketed, everything in view seemed centuries old, save a high-flying jet plane, its vapor trail fading in favor of the bluest of skies….

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The couple says the park is “the hidden jewel of the Mojave Desert.” While its 250,000 annual visitors fall well short of Grand Canyon’s 10 million, the park is more colorful. Up to 80 weddings there each month may mean that news of its natural beauty is getting out.

Colorful hues change with movement of the sun.

Ah, and the sunsets, each an original brushed on earth’s canvas by Him who created it all….

  • * * * *

Back in the city, we took in a fine show of comedy, magic and illusion by Nathan Burton, a guy whose recognition rocketed following performances on the NBC Show, America’s Got Talent.

He’s living proof that entertainment can be as clean as hounds’ teeth, and those of most other animals. “G-rated” throughout, the show is likely to remain so. His sister is production manager, and his mother is a regular, too.

Mom claims that when Nathan isn’t performing, he’s working on new material for his act. His interest in magic started as a four-year-old in Fort Smith, AR….

  • * * * *

A monorail running the four-mile length of the strip provides quick access to major hotels and the Convention Center. Taped messages are informative and clever.

Cabs still abound with drivers remaining universally talkative, or perhaps as talkative as possible. We asked one judged to be of grandparent age if he has grandchildren.

Of Korean heritage with a limited command of English, he pulled to the curb, opened his wallet and flashed a photo of his new 10-month-old granddaughter who lives in New York City. His smile, full-blown, is well-remembered, and universally understood….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web: speakerdoc.com.

Editors: If you’d like to run picture(s) with my column next week, here are some from Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. I particularly like the one called “The Turtle.” Please credit Dorothy Hrytzak for pics you choose to run.

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