Prepare for a wild and woolly time in Las Vegas for the next month
By PATRICIA SHERIDAN | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Published: February 9, 2015
LAS VEGAS (Tribune News Service) — Nobody likes to get fleeced, especially in Las Vegas, where the odds are stacked in favor of a good time and a lighter wallet. So why are The Venetian, The Palazzo, the Bellagio and other resorts filled with images of sheep, goats and rams? Because this is the time when casinos go all out to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Feb. 19 marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram in the Chinese zodiac. Kind-hearted and clever are traits attributed to people born under this sign. Rachel Carson and Michelangelo are sheep people, as well as Nicole Kidman and Bruce Willis.
If you are in Las Vegas between now and early March, you will notice the bell tower at the entrance to The Venetian hotel and casino draped in “Year of the Goat” banners. On Feb. 19, the traditional Lion Dance will take place in the hotel lobby and parade through the property. The dance is considered good luck for the new year.
The rotunda between The Palazzo and The Venetian is already decorated with colorful red-and-yellow Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling over a vignette of three mountain goats surrounded by large and small gold coins.
The displays near the waterfall atrium feature sheep covered in white carnations representing their fleece. Giant gold coins are placed among the 1,200 blooming flowers, including hyacinth and orchids. A feng shui master worked with horticulturalists at the resorts to increase the luck at the casino. A plaque notes that the gold coins are there “to attract fortune and wealth to our visitors.” Inscribed in Chinese characters is the message: “May your happiness be according to your wishes,” and on the reverse side, “Live as long as the tortoise and the crane.” Both animals are symbols of longevity for the Chinese.
The resort that really goes all out for the Chinese New Year is the Bellagio. Famous for its dancing fountains, the Bellagio has the most elaborate exhibit in town under its glass conservatory and botanical garden, with 22,000 red-and-gold flowers, bonsai trees, silk lanterns, trees hung with red lanterns, and a 14-foot mountain topped with a family of five mechanical goats. There is also a 21,000-gallon koi pond topped by a 12-foot-tall lantern, figures of Chinese children adorned in costumes made of 5,000 cut flowers and gold good luck I-Ching coins. It takes six full days to put up the display, which remains through March 15.
The Bellagio has been doing a Chinese New Year display since it opened in 1998. The Aria hotel and casino will celebrate the Year of the Ram with a 7-foot-tall, gold, LED-lit ram of recycled aluminum. Hanging from the lobby ceiling will be a 229-foot dragon surrounded by 140 red lanterns. It will be up by Feb. 12. The Bellagio, Aria and MGM Grand resorts will celebrate with a good luck Lion Dance as well.
With all that positive energy, this may be the best time of year to visit the strip and roll the dice.
IF YOU GO
There are direct flights daily from Pittsburgh International Airport to McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com).
Other airlines fly to Las Vegas with one or more stops.
Lion & Dragon Dances — dynamic and colorful dances at Bellagio, Aria and MGM Grand:
- Bellagio: 5 p.m. Feb. 19 at the main porte cochere.
- MGM Grand: 1 p.m. Feb. 20 inside the main lobby.
- Aria: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the main porte cochere.
At the three hotels, Yau Kung Moon will perform Chinese lion and dragon dances in a traditional southern Shaolin Kung Fu system, a collection of martial arts with more than 1,000 years of history. Yau Kung Moon is one of the world’s most respected martial arts, dragon and lion dance organizations. Known for their trademark gold uniforms and innovative routines, it was the first U.S. team to compete in the 1990 Invitational World Lion Dance Festival in Malaysia.
For the metal sheep, go to www.watsonandco.com.
For the ram’s head bust, go to www.donnyosmond.com.
For the wall-mounted ram’s head, go to www.creativecoop.com.
If you can’t make it to Las Vegas, the Organization of Chinese Americans in Pittsburgh is celebrating the Year of the Sheep Feb. 21 the Syria Shrine Center in Harmar. A 12-course Mandarin-style dinner and live entertainment, including the Lion Dance, are part of the fun planned for the evening (www.ocapghpa.org).
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