Lucy in the Sky with Fire: First Friday Flames of Change

The first Lucky Lady Lucy was constructed for the 2011 Burning Man event, which takes place in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

On the First Friday of every month downtown Las Vegas transforms into a vibrant hotspot where local artists, performers and vendors showcase their talents and wares. This month, First Friday Las Vegas, in combination with the Lucky Lady Lucy team and the city of Las Vegas, are hosting the city’s first public burn.

Lucky Lady Lucy, a 20-foot tall wooden showgirl statue, is headlining the event, First Vegas Burn! The Flames of Change. At around 8:15 p.m. on March 2 the statue will be ceremoniously ignited and burned to the ground in an empty dirt lot located at the corner of 3rd Street and Colorado Avenue. It’s not a publicity stunt. Burning the statue has a symbolic meaning for downtown Vegas.

“It’s the element of change. It’s the element of transition. I think it’s important that people understand it’s not a bunch of pyros, not a bunch of grownups playing with matches,” said Joey Vanas, the managing partner of First Friday Las Vegas.

The change he’s referring to is the evolution of downtown Vegas. Over the past 10 years the area has gone from being thought of as the “forgotten stepchild” to being recognized as a place with more than just the typical Vegas offerings. That effort was pioneered by the former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, but downtown Vegas isn’t yet the butterfly that Vanas envisions.

“I’d like to see more creative people moving here for starters. We need to increase the population density. More people living in closer quarters bumping into each other all day, means more exchange of ideas and facilitates more action and more things happening,” said Vanas.

Flames of Change and Vanas’ goal for First Friday was spawned by Burning Man, a week-long event that takes place once a year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Every year Burning Man attracts thousands of participants who congregate to build a temporary city founded on art, self expression, self-reliance and community. Vanas attended the event for the first time in 2011. He saw strangers helping strangers and realized that everything the event stood for was exactly what he wanted to see happen in downtown Vegas.

“No matter who you are, where you come from, what language you speak or what you believe in, you can find like-minded people there (at Burning Man), and you can be accepted for who you are. That’s a huge thing,” said Vanas.

The experience was life changing and inspired him to take his current position as a managing partner for First Friday. He was first approached about the position by his friend and Zappos CEO and co-founder Tony Hsieh. Vanas had also previously worked with Hsieh.

Lucky Lady Lucy lights up the sky at Burning Man.

Vanas’ experience at Burning Man made such a big impact on him that he wanted to get people in the Vegas community to create something that could be shared at Burning Man 2012. What he didn’t know was that there was already a team of Burning Man participants building a sculpture that could be presented and burned here in Vegas, the Lucky Lady Lucy Team. This is the second time the team has built a wooden showgirl. The first one was created for Burning Man in 2011.

Once Vanas realized the Lucky Lady Lucy effort was already underway, it was just a matter of First Friday teaming up to help support and market the event.

Not only does Vanas want downtown to embrace the principles of Burning Man, he also wants Vegas to become a new hub for the event during the 358 days a year when the festival isn’t taking place. Right now Reno is where many of the art pieces from the event are stored when not in use at Burning Man. One of Vanas’ goals for downtown is to find a space where those pieces can be on display for people to enjoy who don’t make it to festival in northern Nevada.

Acting as a driving force behind First Friday is more than just a job for Vanas. He sees what he’s doing as a reflection of every individual’s desire to be creative and be part of something bigger than themselves. For Vanas the bigger picture is creating a better place to live that will impact everyone.

“This whole downtown project that Tony conceived, the goal of it is to make this the most community-focused and connected urban environment on the planet and to take the things that we’ve learned along the way and to pass that information on with the goal that other cities and places will do the same thing,” said Vanas. “It’s going to increase the quality of life for all of us.”

In combination with the burn, First Friday is going to feature live entertainment at multiple downtown venues, an Art Car Extravaganza, art demonstrations, fire art performances, an official after-party and more.

Schedule of Events

Location: Casino Center and Colorado Ave.
Art Style: Emerging and established artists, arts, crafts

  • 8 p.m. –  First public burn in the city’s history at 3rd  Street and Colorado Ave.
  • 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Fire art performances by Flameology, Nytronix and The Brotherhood of the Flame will bring the energy of the public burn to crowds throughout the festival. Cast members from the Los Angeles-based production “The Burning Opera: How to Survive the Apocalypse” will perform in a theatrical performance combining rock, opera and vaudeville.
  • 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. – The Art Car Extravaganza will showcase some of the most creative art cars from around the world.
  • 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Two stages with live music and DJ performances. Golden Nugget Main Stage located on Casino Center just south of Colorado Ave. The Lyon’s Den Stage located on 3rd Street just south of Colorado. Both programmed to showcase live performances from multiple live bands and DJs.

Location: Get Back Alley located just south of Fremont Street between 6th and Las Vegas Blvd.
Art Style: Urban and street art
Activities: Deriving its name from the long-running and hugely successful DJ funk and soul dance party held every First Friday, Get Back Alley is the newest part of the First Friday expansion to Fremont Street East. First Friday will transform the alley behind Downtown Cocktail Room, The Griffin, Beauty Bar and Le Thai into an arts hallway. This area will include live murals, street art, live music and performance arts demonstrations.
Entertainment: Live bands and DJ performances programmed in Get Back Alley from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Location: The Plaza Hotel – Under the Dome – Art Car Extravaganza

  • 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. – After the March 2 First Friday event, the Plaza Hotel will host an Art Car party with the Dancetronauts as well as other of the world’s most unique and artfully designed vehicles. Admission is free.

Location: The Plaza Theatre

  • 1 a.m. – 6 a.m. – Following the Art Car event the after-party will move into the Plaza Theatre where guests can dance into the wee hours of the morning. Entertainment will be provided by Project Alma, a Burner camp from Los Angeles featuring four top DJs and live theatrics. Admission is $10.

First Friday shuttle service will run from 4:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. There will be ample free parking as well as $5 parking lots.


  • City Hall Garage (Stewart and Las Vegas Blvd.); shuttle runs to the Arts District Hub
  • Clark County Government Center; shuttle loops to the Arts District Hub as well as Fremont Street East
  • Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino; shuttle runs to the Arts District Hub as well as Fremont Street East
  • The Plaza Hotel & Casino; shuttle runs to the Arts District Hub as well as Fremont Street East