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Checking out the beastly vehicles during Mint 400 festivities

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If you’re going to race in the Mint 400, make sure your vehicle is memorable.
Photo: Glenn Pinkerton

There’s never enough happening at the Fremont Street Experience. There aren’t enough Big Birds walking around, too few bright lights, giant fonts and showgirls calling you into their casinos with their marvelous breasts and free-beaded necklaces. You can only watch someone write entire passages onto grains of rice for so many hours before you get bored and have to move onto the aerosol painters creating their Bob Ross-style landscapes or gawk at the stream of tourists whizzing by on the zip lines above. There might be reels of potential necklaces to peruse at the Gold by the Inch kiosk and temporary tattoos to buy, but really, this place could use an infusion of color and activity.

I must not be the only one who feels this way, because last week the Mint 400 festivities returned to Fremont Street, where more than 300 off-road vehicles were pushed down the Vegas midway for the race’s contingency and technical inspection. The public viewing of the high-tech off-road racing vehicles helps publicize the race that began in 1967 as a promotional event for the Mint hotel.

The lineup of beastly vehicles, set to rip up the desert the next day on a 92-mile off-road track near Primm, began at 9th and Fremont and ended eight blocks later in front of Mermaids at 1st. There, officials checked, among other things, the lights, window nets, horns and fuel vents.

Engines went silent. Drivers couldn’t start their cars while in the corridor. Crews waited patiently by the machines, then began inching them forward, between the food and tchotchke vendors. Miss Mint 400 posed for photos. Fans swilled beers, and tourists examined the spectacle while dipping in and out of the souvenir stores as Big Bird busked for dollars on the gorgeously hot day.

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