Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mesquite Needs More Hot Air

This dirigible didn't go anywhere on Saturday due to
wind problems.  But people showed up anyway, and
Mesquite was buzzing with visitors and tourists.
Did you try to get into a casino restaurant over the weekend in Mesquite?  Search for an empty slot machine?
It was a challenge.
And we should be thankful.
Mesquite was popping over the weekend, thanks to the hot air balloon event held at the CasaBlanca Resort and CasaBlanca Golf Course.
The event started with a fizzle on Saturday when hundreds of people showed up at the links near Sunset Greens beginning at 6 a.m. to see the balloons take flight.
Hopefully our capable new mayor and city council will get right to work making a new law which precludes any event which requires spectators to be vertical before 8 a.m. on a weekend.
Unfortunately, because of atmospheric winds or solar flares or a cracked and leaky magic eight ball ("Will balloons fill the sky this day?"...shake shake shake..."Outlook not so good.") Mesquite's skies were filled with just common ordinary everyday sunshine and azure blue on Saturday instead of the expected spectrum of colors found on a collection of hot air balloons.
I'm told the liftoff was successful on Sunday.  I wouldn't know, because as Grandma Pyle used to tell Gomer, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."
Nothing less than Elvis in a rattan gondola could have dragged me out of a nice warm bed on a frigid Sunday morning to roll the dice on another chance to see (or not see) the spectacle.
With chattering teeth and frozen nernies, and plenty of time to consider such things since there was nothing else going on at the Casa course Saturday morning, I couldn't help but wonder about the turnout.
For starters, watching the dozens of vehicles and hundreds of people traipsing across the manicured fairways, I couldn't help but wonder exactly how much apoplexy the vision would bring to Randy Black if he saw his beloved golf course invaded in such a manner.
Accordingly, it also made me appreciate the sacrifice and effort made by Black and the casinos to give up two weekend mornings of golf revenue in the middle of high season, and endure the inevitable turf damage.
To be sure, they made it up on the back end, judging by the busy casino floor and crowded conditions at the Purple Fez on Friday night.
And that's the point.
If you hold it, they will come.
Mesquite used to have events like this just about every weekend during season. 
Now that the economy is trying to make a comeback, it's time for us to do the same.
The car show held in Mesquite three weekends ago was reportedly the biggest ever.  So it's obvious there's some pent-up discretionary dollars burning a hole in the pockets of people who are tired of letting the recession beat them bloody.  It's like the eruption of joy following a society-wide version of cabin fever.  People are ready to begin trying to have fun again.
For those who remember the heady days of Mesquite circa 2006-07, they can attest that there's no better place for that fun that our little community.
Next week, BransonFest is sure to fill the casino floors again.  (That's right, it's a celebration held during the week instead of the weekend, showing just how much drawing power the appearance of Faux Presleys can have.) 
Not only is BransonFest a lot of fun, it's a testament to the imagination and creativity of some people who aren't going to wait around for a more traditional event like a bluegrass festival or carnival to lure visitors.  Can you imagine being in the room when this idea was first being pitched?
"Here's what we're gonna do.  We're going to pick a tiny little town just a few miles from the entertainment capital of the world, and we're going to make up a festival there to celebrate the show power of another little town on the other side of the continent."
It's like popping up in Linda Loma, Calif. and deciding to hold Mayberry Days.
Amazingly, it works.
Now we need more events and activities like it; more hot air balloon events, car/boat/plane shows, and fill-in-the-blank-fests.
The casinos on both sides of town are doing their part.
Our arts community is keeping up their end with things like the Mesquite Western Roundup later this month and the annual art show.
We can't expect much from our Chamber of Commerce, a dysfunctional organization that couldn't figure out how to draw flies to a cow patty, and it's really not a city government's job to manufacture events to bring in tourists, but there are plenty of other clubs and groups in town that would help their community greatly if they were to get on board and start organizing big local events.
So that's the challenge.  The time is right, the lettuce is ripe for the picking, and we're overdue for Mesquite to return to being the tourist destination we all know and love.
If you have an idea for an event, even if it's just something you've seen or done somewhere else, speak up and leave a comment.  This is how big things get started.