06/28/2006 11:00PM

Tuesday holiday explains slight drop in crowds


Last Fourth of July weekend, the Las Vegas metropolitan area welcomed 284,000 visitors, according to Kevin Bagger, analyst for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

This year, 282,000 visitors are projected, which at first glance doesn't seem to make sense, since there are more hotel rooms now (133,470 compared with 132,635), and visitor counts usually increase steadily from year to year.

"The drop is simply a function of the calendar," Bagger said. "With the holiday falling on a Tuesday, some people can't take that much time off of work. With a quote-unquote 'three-day weekend' like we had last year, with the Fourth falling on a Monday, there's a spike in the number of visitors."

That was certainly the case last year, when the visitor count jumped from 277,000 the previous year. In fact, Bagger said it's almost surprising that there isn't more of a dropoff this year.

"Last year, we not only had a three-day weekend, but it was also supported by the Las Vegas Centennial celebration and the free [Red Hot Chili Peppers] concert," he said. "The fact we're going to be close to last year's total is a very good sign."

'Love' premieres at The Mirage

On Friday night, the "Love" Cirque du Soleil show, based on the music of the Beatles, was scheduled to have its grand opening at The Mirage, in the theater that formerly hosted the Siegfried and Roy show. Roy Horn is expected to make his first return to the theater since he was attacked by a tiger during a show in October 2003, an accident that ended Siegfried and Roy's 13-year run at The Mirage. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were also expected to attend, along with Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison.

Other celebrities expected at the premiere included Eddie Murphy, Tony Bennett, Billy Crystal, Michael Richards, Paul Reiser, and many poker stars who are in town for the World Series of Poker.

Fireworks shows all over town

Weather forecasts call for highs of 104 to 105 degrees from Friday through Wednesday, but as the temperature cools down each night, the festivities will heat up with parties all over town. And it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without fireworks, and Vegas has some of the best shows around.

Caesars Palace is having a private party Saturday night that will have fireworks. On Sunday night, the Stratosphere will have a pool party with fireworks off the tower that can be seen from any point in the valley. On Monday, North Las Vegas will have a free festival at Seastrand Park, including a 15-ton snow mountain and fireworks at 9 p.m.

One of the top local festivals - Red, White, and Boom at Desert Breeze Park on West Spring Mountain Road (the road that intersects the Strip between the Wynn and Venetian) - is being expanded to two days, on Monday and Tuesday, with carnival rides, food booths, and six rock bands each night. The fireworks will begin at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

The classiest presentation is the Star-Spangled Spectacular at Hills Park in Summerlin, with the fireworks accompanied by the Las Vegas Philharmonic. This show has the steepest ticket price, at $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. The VIP pavilion costs $90 with a full buffet and wine.

Henderson is getting so big that it is hosting two separate festivals on Tuesday, at Anthem Hills Park and Morrell Park, with shuttle buses running between the two. Dueling fireworks displays begin at 9 p.m.

Boulder City, home of Hoover Dam, has the best-named festival, the 58th Annual Boulder City Damboree. The festival will also have a 9 p.m. fireworks display, which shows that you should be able to see fireworks no matter where you are in the valley that night.

Vegas Summer League tips off

As the holiday crowds leave town after the Fourth of July, basketball players and their entourages and fans will be filling the town during the middle of next week.

The Vegas Summer League starts July 6 and runs through July 14 at the Cox Pavilion, adjacent to the Thomas and Mack Center.

The Vegas Summer League is often the first chance for teams to put their new draft picks through drills and see them against other NBA-caliber talent. Since the draft was held this past Wednesday night, it's too soon to know which top rookies will be ready to play in the league. Of course, with all the draft-night trades, it's hard enough to know who's going where.

The 16 teams participating in this year's Vegas Summer League are Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Minnesota, New York, Sacramento, Toronto, and Washington.

Tickets are available at the Thomas and Mack box office and at unlvtickets.com. Daily passes, good for all four games on that particular day, are $22 for adults, $12 for kids and seniors, or $170 for all games on all nine days.

* For those who want to wait to see who makes their teams, tickets are also on sale for two exhibition games being held at the Thomas and Mack right before the start of the NBA regular season. The Lakers will be in town to play the Suns on Oct. 15 and the Kings on Oct. 17.