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September 20, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Life is Beautiful, but not without a ton of work

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News

Plaster arms hang in the workroom waiting to be used at Characters Unlimited in Boulder City.

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"Llamas Stay for Free" appears on the A Motel sign in downtown Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.

In less than a week, hundreds of musicians, artists, chefs and speakers will start flying into Las Vegas.

Downtown hotel rooms and hundreds or thousands of more rooms in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip will fill with customers coming to enjoy their talents.

And between now and the time those people arrive, hundreds of details — some tiny, some not so tiny — will have been taken care of.

Rain or shine, an estimated 50,000 people will converge on 15 blocks of downtown Las Vegas next weekend for the inaugural Life Is Beautiful festival.

Buildings are being coated in paint, new parking lots are emerging from old, decrepit lots, tents are being raised and final contracts are being signed. Dirt is being hauled away, delivery trucks are dropping off supplies; the excitement of anticipation is palpable.

Ashley Goodhue, festival chief operation officer and director of production, sits down in The Beat for a bite during an interview.

“I eat when I can,” she says.

Remarkably, Goodhue is laughing and professes complete calm — and without the benefit of anti-anxiety drugs. She says that’s because she’s in her element.

“This is what we live for, to be quite frank with you,” Goodhue says. “If you’re made for production, you’re made for these weeks. This week and next week. I can’t wait for Saturday and Sunday, but I am made for these two weeks.”

Directly across the street from The Atomic, a bar at Fremont and 9th streets, which will be within the 15-block perimeter, trucks full of dirt were still being moved this morning from an empty lot that used to be home to the Ambassador East hotel. By this time next week, the dirt should be covered by blacktop, as it is where one of two main stages will be erected for the festival.

“It will be done,” Goodhue assures.

The Ambassador sign, paint peeling and neon busted, was never torn down when the building was demolished a year ago. The sign was renewed and updated for the festival. It is now adorned with the wording “Llamas Stay for Free!” It’s an homage to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, whose Downtown Project is a festival partner. Hsieh’s favorite animal is the llama.

Further west and north of the old Ambassador, a lot has already been paved near Stewart Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, site of yet another stage.

On Stewart near 7th Street, a large tent was put up earlier this week and an Airstream trailer is plopped down next to it.

Less than a block away, the former Town Lodge Motel, 225 N. 7th St., looks like someone picked it up and dipped it into a vat of white paint. The building will become the locale for the Art Odyssey, the art component of the festival. It will host local and international art exhibits, including that of a 10-year-old from Las Vegas.

The motel’s courtyard will house a specially designed water feature. Next to the building, in an open lot, a park called the Secret Garden will be built.

That’s not all.

The walls of several structures will be adorned with some 14 murals. The artist known as Doze will begin work Saturday on a wall of the El Cortez parking garage.

Portuguese muralist Vhils will do another wall of the garage, and the El Cortez’s Cabana suites, 651 E. Ogden Ave., just north of the parking garage, will get a mural by D*Face.

Zio will do a mural on a wall of the Town Lodge, home of Art Odyssey. A stencil will adorn another of the Town Lodge’s walls.

Then there will be two murals and another form of street art on the old Las Vegas Hotel, behind the Cabana Suites.

Two murals will adorn walls of the former Western Hotel.

The Beat/Emergency Arts building will get a mural, as will the Commonwealth bar, both at 6th and Fremont streets. The Container Park’s southern cinder block wall will get a mural, as will the wall of a former Mexican restaurant on Fremont, between 6th and 7th streets.

All this in about a week.

“It’s all going to get done in about five days,” Goodhue says, laughing. “We’ve done a ton of work ahead of time. When you are in this world, you just know that it...all comes together so quickly.”

Goodhue, 26, adds that nothing like this goes off without some glitches.

“But you roll with the punches,” she says. “It’s the same as construction or any process where you can’t control everything around you. But my reality is, we’re going to get it done. I know we’re going to. Are things going to go wrong along the way? Of course.

“But I can assure you, by the time we open those doors, this will be the best festival site anybody’s ever seen.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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