Published Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 8:20 p.m.
Updated Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 11:26 p.m.
In a city famed for its iconic neon, the tourist cameras came out tonight to capture what they look like unlit.
Las Vegas Boulevard went dark -- or tried to -- from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. for Earth Hour.
Las Vegas was a flagship city for the World Wildlife Foundation's blackout, designed to raise awareness about global warming. More than 2,400 cities in 82 countries around the World participated in Earth Hour and for the first time the bright lights of Las Vegas were included in that list.
Headlights from the Strip's traffic, lights on CityCenter's construction and hotel rooms remained on, but most casinos flipped their lights off.
A large collective "Ooh" could be heard on the crowded pedestrian bridge from the Flamingo to Caesars Palace, when the marquee at Bills Gamblin' Hall and Saloon was the first observable outage. One by one, Bally's TV screen, Paris' balloon and Luxor's beam faded.
Cheers erupted when the Flamingo's pink and gold neon disappeared.
Annamarie Cavalli, who lives in Las Vegas, said she reserves trips to the Strip for special occasions, like last December's snowstorm.
"I'm impressed," she said. "It's pretty drastic. I think it's cool all these places participated. And it's the only time locals like me will be down here."
Teresa Vincitore said it was coincidental she took a Las Vegas vacation from New Jersey during Earth Hour.
"I imagine the amount of electricity they save will be significant," she said. "It's going to save some wattage."
Vincitore said she's not "religious" about energy conservation, but looked forward to walking around during the hour.
"We'll see what Vegas is like without all the neon," she said.
Polly Wormington, who was visiting from London, was shocked to be reminded of Earth Hour, when asked.
"We hadn't even noticed!" she said. "So that's why everyone's taking pictures of the traffic."
Therese Conner, who lives in Las Vegas and Miami, Fla., said she traveled to the Strip to take photos of the blackened casino signs.
"I thought it would be a lot darker," she said.
Conner, who said she was "very conservative" with using electricity, said though one hour won't make too much a difference, the event should get people thinking.
"It's symbolic, but it'll save electricity for sure," she said. "Let's get everybody realizing you don't have to leave your porch light on all night."
You don't have to leave your Eiffel Tower on for one hour one night a year, either.
It's lights out at the Freemont Street Experience
The Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas also joined other landmarks around the world by turning off the lights.
Just before 8:30 p.m., a brief video explanation of Earth Hour played on the giant Via Vision canopy before the so-called “World’s Biggest Big Screen” went dark for 60 minutes.
Fremont Street vendors prepared for the event by distributing green glowing necklaces to visitors.
But some visitors were caught off guard by the darkened attractions.
Jeff Braughton drove with his family from Mountain Pass, Calif., just across the state line from Nevada.
“As we drove past the Rio I thought it must have gone out of business,” Braughton said.
The trip to Fremont Street was the first for his daughter Hope. Her mom, Sandra, said it was kind of nice to be on Fremont Street for part of the darkness.
“I liked it,” she said. “It was kind of calming with all the lights off.
Other tourists were a little more prepared.
Rob Kilo said that he got a message from Planet Hollywood, where he and wife Kathy are staying while on vacation from St. Louis. The hotel asked them to leave their room lights off for the hour.
Slightly confused, they called the concierge to make sure the while city wasn’t going to be shut down. Then they came to Fremont Street to experience the darkness.
“It was odd to see it dark,” Rob Kilo said. “The whole concept as a visitor is seeing the lights. … Here everything is lights.
Springs Preserve partiers watch the bright lights go out
Las Vegas residents at the Earth Hour viewing party at the Springs Preserve enjoyed the sights and sounds from inside the Wolfgang Puck Café. Three local bands performed during the event: Hungry Cloud, The Petals and Mother McKenzie.
The sentiment at the Springs Preserve was not just the anticipation of witnessing the historical participation of Strip Casinos going dark, but making a case for every day to be an Earth Hour day.
"Earth Hour is about what you do at home, it's about those small changes you can make. It is making sure your lights are turned off, making sure the power strip to your computer goes down," said Las Vegas resident Corrine Hall. "It’s just small things, it's taking five minutes to change something small."
"I use the CFL light bulbs, turning TVs and lights off when we’re not in the room, we unplug all of our appliances when we aren't using them, phone chargers, and everything like that because those use energy even if they're not turned on," said Tommi Willingham, UNLV third year special education major.
There was a brief moment of "oohs" and "ahhs" as residents watched from the balcony at the Springs Preserve, but then there were other murmurs about why more casinos did not participate and why the lighted ones took away from the ones that were dark.
"One of the fascinating things about the Springs Preserve is the fact that they're using solar power outside here in the parking lot and a town like this it seems ridiculous that we don't," said Earth Hour viewer Dale Gilbert.
"This is something that is going to have to happen. It's not even at a point whether or not it will -- it's going to happen one way or another," Gilbert said.
Hall said she was ensuring that she does her part in leaving her little space of the Earth well-kept for the next generation.
“In my 38 years on the planet, when you’re recycling and doing those things to make a difference, you are leaving the planet the way you arrived into it," she said.