A short history of the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign: Second in a SmartSign blog series on famous signs and their origins

The ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign is one of the most historic Las Vegas landmarks, built in 1959. The sign sits in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, which, interestingly enough, is outside of the city limits and in the town of Paradise. This is also considered to be the official Southern end of the Las Vegas strip.

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The sign was built by a woman named Betty Willis, as per the request of a local salesperson named Ted Rogich. Rogich applauded the neon signs of the city that advertised the hotels, casinos and restaurants, and felt that there should be such a sign to represent the city itself. Willis considered the sign her gift to the city and so the sign was never copyrighted, hence why you’ll find it on so many souvenirs in Vegas. The sign cost a mere $4,000 to build and Young Electric Company currently owns it, while leasing it to Clark County.

The sign stands at 25 feet tall, which is actually smaller than most Las Vegas signs, like the famous Vegas Vic sign which reaches 40 feet. It is a stretched diamond shape, with the top and bottom angles pointed and side angles rounded. Across the top of the sign are seven white circles that are meant to represent silver dollars, as a salute to Las Vegas’ nickname, the “Silver State”. Each letter of the word “Welcome” is inside the silver dollars with “to Fabulous” in 1950’s-style cursive in the line below it, followed by “Las Vegas” in capital letters taking up the width of the sign and “Nevada” in smaller text on the last line. The back of the sign (which is not as often photographed and much lesser known), reads “Drive Carefully, Come Back Soon”. The sign is in Googie architecture style, a form of architecture popular during the 40’s and 50’s, which combines futurism, the Atomic Age, and car culture. 

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In 2008, the decision was made to design a parking lot by the sign. Prior to doing so, taking pictures of the sign posed as risky because tourists would stand in the middle of the road to get their photo opportunities. The parking lot allows for access to view the sign, as well as a paved walkway going from the parking lot to an official viewing area.

The sign has gained so much popularity that there have been two replica signs built in Las Vegas, one on Las Vegas Boulevard reading “Welcome to Fabulous Downtown Las Vegas” and one on Boulder Highway. Unfortunately, the replica sign in downtown Vegas was destroyed by a car crash in 2016.

For anyone who wants a piece of the actual sign, you are in luck! When the lights on the sign are replaced, they are sold as souvenirs, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to local charities. In 2013, the Consumer Electronics Association made a $50,000 donation to Green Chips, who plans to use the donated funds to help make the sign solar.

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