31 things we’re thankful for right now

From nonprofits to foodie finds to the Fremont Cannon, the things we’re appreciative of this year

From the firefighters who battled the Mount Charleston blaze to free tastes at a Downtown gelato shop to the medical marijuana dispensaries on the way, Weekly is thankful for a lot this Thanksgiving.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

1. Home prices are going back up. I’m a devout Zillow.com visitor, always checking on how much (or little) my house is worth. In the last year or so, it’s been steadily going up. While our market has a long way to go to ever see pre-2007 levels again, I’m happy to say that if I were forced to sell right now, I would actually break even. Who would have ever thought I’d be excited about that? —Ken Miller

2. Those flashing yellow lights at intersections. Not having to wait for the next green arrow? Sometimes it’s the small things, people.

3. Being thankful that Art Square Theatre shares walls with Artifice goes without saying: Drinks, then a play? Genius! But this gem deserves our thanks for literally bringing the arts closer to the community with seats on the stage floor and a no-frills vibe that really feels like it’s for everyone. —Leslie Ventura

4. The Griffin’s back room. We know Downtowners are already thankful for the Fremont Street staple with comfy fireplaces and even cozier drinks, but let us not forget the back room, which has played host to many local bands over the years. It isn’t the most lauded venue in the district, but the scene wouldn’t be the same without it.

5. It won’t premiere at the Palazzo until December 16, but we’ve already gotten so much joy out of Panda! (pronounced: PANDA!!!!!). Picture a man in a furry suit doing serious kung fu splits. Oh yeah, and there’s a demon vulture.

6. The Roadrunner Saloon on Buffalo Drive, the most rollicking Denver Broncos bar west of the Mississippi (and outside of Colorado). Home-field advantage, 750 miles away.

Gelato at the Art of Flavors gelato shop.

7. Free tastes at the Art of Flavors gelato shop, so you can sample Desyree Alberganti's shockingly good gorgonzola pear before committing to a whole cup.

8. The firefighters from near and far who battled the Mount Charleston forest fire, saving homes, habitats and our sense of place. We can’t thank you enough.

9. Real acai bowls at Juice ‘N’ Go loaded with fresh fruit, granola, honey and those Brazilian berries blended with apple juice, soy milk or coconut milk. That you don’t even have to get out of the car to get one is just an added bonus.

10. The casino hosts don’t treat me like a whale. The Michelin-starred chefs don’t visit my table to check on the salad. And the club promoters … let’s just say I know my place in the caste system of cool. I’m just an average Las Vegan, so my experiences at big casinos on the Strip should be average, too. But the little people look out for each other. This is for the valets who remember my name and physically run to retrieve my crappy car, even though they know I’m not tipping more than $5. This is for the lobby bartenders who serve strong drinks and ask about my day as if all the other stools were empty. This is for the boutique staffers who know I can’t buy the Cavalli or McQueen but let me caress the clothes anyway. This is for the many hostesses who’ve given me directions to other restaurants without giving me stink-eye, for the generous bathroom attendants who donate peppermints when I don’t have any cash, for the craps dealers who laugh off my idiocy. Your service makes the Vegas fantasy possible for those of us who aren’t with the DJ. —Erin Ryan

11. Three Square is making a difference—one stomach at a time.

It’s easy to assume a city known for excess doesn’t have problems with hunger and food insecurity. But we do: A recent study conducted by Three Square Food Bank, Feeding America and Applied Analysis concludes that 16.2 percent of Southern Nevadans (344,580 people) don’t know where their next meal is coming from. A glance at the study’s “Meal Gap” map reveals food insecurity is widespread, not surprising considering the impact of underwater mortgages, home foreclosures and unemployment on hunger issues.

Three Square is making a difference. Its diverse programs, highly charged by a long list of corporate and community partnerships, are growing beyond food collection and distribution, though the bank collected 22 million pounds of food last year. Program manager Lisa Corbett says child-focused programs like Kids Café, which provides after-school meals, and the Summer Food Service Program, which feeds families that qualify for and depend on free or reduced school lunches when school’s not in session, are growing aggressively. The summer program went from 100,000 meals last year to 180,000 in 2013.

“It’s unfathomable for us that one in four children in Clark County is food insecure,” Corbett says.

We agree—unfathomable and unacceptable. Las Vegas is lucky to have people and organizations fighting the tide. —Brock Radke

12. Involtini di Prosciutto at Settebello. Meat wrapped around baby arugula and topped with goat cheese, shaved parmigiano-reggiano and balsamic. It’s salad in reverse.

With a 27-22 win over the Wolf Pack, UNLV brought the Fremont Cannon back home after eight years of losses in 2013.

13. The Fremont Cannon is Rebel red. Yes, we’re thankful for bragging rights. We’ve been shaking off losses to that mediocre school up north for eight years now, but no longer! The Fremont Cannon has been painted scarlet, and it’s going to stay that way. (But even should it not, how many national titles do the Wolf Pack have, again? Yeah, that’s what we thought.)

14. Politicians who are always good for sound bites. Jim Wheeler talking about bringing back slavery? Good times for the media. Good times.

15. Las Vegas, thank you for giving a crap. It wasn’t too long ago that, among all of our other faults, we Sin City citizens were generally categorized as an apathetic bunch. Apparently, we didn’t vote, support local arts and culture, participate in philanthropic causes, question the powers that be or, you know, generally look up from our video poker machines.

And we certainly didn’t care about Downtown. Fast forward to 2013, and everyone has an opinion on everything—especially Downtown. Commenters on local news stories aside, we are nearing something resembling productive discourse. We are meeting in public places to talk about our community (see: 18b Arts District). We may very well resuscitate the Huntridge—thanks to our money, yes, but also our voices and efforts. And where we’ve been resigned to letting the Strip’s corporate overlords do as they may, we’ve raised concerns with every change to the Downtown footprint.

Maybe it’s just that we finally have things to talk about, like growing pains, ambitious entrepreneurs, large-scale festivals and facilities, thriving businesses—even a potential contemporary art museum. To quote the Boss, you can’t start a fire without a spark. Some have already thanked those who have kindled the flames. I want to thank those who have fanned them. —Mike Prevatt

16. The Adoption Exchange’s work to adopt out older Nevada children.

The first time I heard of a child adoption fair, the image of prospective parents flipping through photo albums of older children looking for a

“forever family” surprised me. I wondered what it would be like to be a 10-year-old or a teenager adjusting to a brand new family. The bigger question was more unnerving: What would it be like to never be adopted and then, at age 18, leave the system with no real backup or the financial and emotional safety nets that others take for granted?

Then I later came across the children’s gallery on the Adoption Exchange’s website.

Since 1983, the nonprofit organization says it has helped 7,369 children across the nation join families, and of that number, 64 percent are 9 or older and 19 percent are 14 and older.

But there are still so many more. Along with photos, names, birthdays, grades in school, special interests and dates of listing, the children’s gallery talks about the kids’ varied interests—sports, choir, trumpet, skateboarding—and that so and so loves to laugh, has a huge heart, is a charmer and likes pets and pizza. While reading all of this you’re crossing your fingers, hoping that things work out. —Kristen Peterson

17. Bronze Cafe’s cold-brewed coffee, best for those mornings when you really need a caffeinated punch to the face.

18. Medical marijuana dispensaries are on the way. The waiting really is the hardest part.

19. The duck salad at Hakkasan. So much better than turkey.

A scene from the Punk Rock Bowling Festival

A scene from the Punk Rock Bowling Festival

20. “City of festivals.” It’s the official, welcome-sign nickname of Indio, California, the town that hosts Coachella and Stagecoach (though Austin, Texas, could surely lay claim to the title, too, with South by Southwest, Austin City Limits and more held there each year). It wasn’t so long ago that Las Vegas also seemed headed for that elite circle, with destination music (Vegoose), film (CineVegas) and comedy (the Comedy Festival) festivals all on our annual calendar.

Until one day, they weren’t.

Vegoose pulled up stakes in 2008, after a three-year stint; the Comedy Festival made ’08 its last edition, too, after four years here; and CineVegas went dark after 2009, ending an 11-year run during which it grew into a bona fide fixture.

Half a decade later, however, Las Vegas seems to have recaptured its festival mojo. Electric Daisy Carnival, the country’s largest and best-known electronic music gathering, has packed the Speedway the past three summers and just announced dates for 2014. Punk Rock Bowling has gone from niche industry event to full-fledged circle-the-date happening. And last month, the first-year Life Is Beautiful Festival drew tens of thousands Downtown for two fun-filled days of music, food and more. All of which is a boon for us locals, the kind who benefit financially from out-of-town traffic and those who simply dig cool things happening in their hometown. Sounds like it might be time to touch up a sign or two around here. Welcome to fabulous, festival-friendly Las Vegas? —Spencer Patterson

21. Casa Don Juan’s house margaritas, for when you don’t feel like splurging.

22. Upgraded bathrooms and H&M at the Galleria, quite possibly the only suburban mall that doesn’t make us sad.

23. The Boulder City Review police blotter, for providing comic relief in the face of crime.

24. The breathtaking Nevada sky, for putting on a show that still amazes, even after we’ve seen it a gazillion times.

The Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan

The Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan

25. Monday night Date Skate at the Cosmopolitan, because you should start your week with movies on the marquee, hot cider, s’mores and a few turns around the ice rink (and the $10 locals skating deal doesn’t hurt).

26. With its 20-year history of offering the Vegas LGBTQ community vital programs and services, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada certainly deserves thanks each and every November. But in the months since opening its beautiful new Maryland Parkway facility in March, the Center has earned an extra helping of appreciation.

When the organization was preparing to cut the rainbow ribbon on the Downtown location, the goal was to become a “community center” in every sense of the term—and boy, did they deliver. Youth drop-in rates are up 700 percent since the move, and transgender support group attendance has increased 19 percent in that same time. The nonprofit has also forged relationships with area businesses and organizations and even launched an arts and culture event series in June. Just nine months after opening the doors, the Center’s vision of becoming a true community center has been realized.

And that’s not all. The nonprofit has also seen a spike in the number of people taking advantage of HIV testing at its Health and Wellness Center, and just last month it launched an international HIV prevention campaign with the UFC.

2013 has been a banner year for the Center. Because of its efforts, the future of the Las Vegas LGBTQ community looks a lot brighter this Thanksgiving, and for that, we are very, very thankful. —Mark Adams

27. The free entertainment of browsing gift shops on Fremont Street, where an enormous stuffed grizzly bear might be next to a creepy fortune-telling machine and a rack of onesies that say, “I’m what happened in Vegas.”

28. Random free parking Downtown. It exists. We swear. (But we’re not saying where.)

29. The Sci Fi Center’s new location. Bigger and better, but it still feels like your high school friend’s basement.

30. Thanksgiving leftovers.

31 YOU! Thanks for reading, commenting on our stories, tweeting at us when you’re mad or stoked and sending random photos that make us laugh. The Weekly wouldn’t be much without you, our readers. So, thanks.

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