07/02/2001 12:00AM

Vegas doing firecracker holiday business


LAS VEGAS - The calendar has caused some confusion this year.

It's usually easy to tell when a "holiday weekend" begins and ends because most holidays are celebrated on a Monday or a Friday, but the Fourth of July falls in the middle of the week on a Wednesday this year. So, did the holiday weekend start last weekend and end Wednesday, or does it start Wednesday and roll into this upcoming weekend?

"For our purposes, we're counting this upcoming weekend as the official holiday weekend," said Kevin Bagger, head of the research department at the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. "Most people don't leave on a holiday, so more people are likely to be arriving Tuesday or Wednesday and staying a few days after. That's how we handle similar holidays in the past that fell in the middle of the week."

Bagger said the LVCVA is expecting 275,000 visitors this weekend (up from 269,000 last year) with room occupancy at 95.1 percent. Bagger said the LVCVA is also estimating a non-gaming economic impact of $233 million. Of course, most visitors will see it as their patriotic duty to step up to the gaming tables.

Anyone who was on the Strip this past weekend knows that it was crowded, too, so even if the midweek holiday hurts the official figures this weekend, the holiday certainly helped two weekends back-to-back.

In fact, visitor counts haven't been hurt by much of anything lately, despite concerns about the national economy and sky-high gas prices. At the midway point of the year, Las Vegas is on a pace to draw 37 million visitors, up from 35.8 million last year.

That gives Las Vegas a lot to celebrate. So what will locals be doing on the Fourth of July (after a full day of horse racing and chasing the $691,095.45 carryover in the Hollywood Park pick six?). Well, just about the same things that take place in every other American city.

With the holiday on Wednesday, the celebrations started last weekend. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway had fireworks Saturday night, as did Santa Fe Station (to commemorate a new food court). The Las Vegas 51s had shows on both Saturday and Sunday, and (if you're reading this to do some early handicapping on Tuesday) there's another show planned for Tuesday night after the game (first pitch 7:05 p.m.). Another Tuesday show was set for Sunset Station, following a David Lee Roth concert.

But the biggest celebrations are reserved for Wednesday. Most tourists will watch the 20-minute fireworks display at the Stratosphere Tower starting at 9:30 p.m.

Locals on the north end of town will have two shows to choose from. The city of North Las Vegas will have a 9 p.m. show at the appropriately named Freedom Park. The attractions include a petting zoo and pony rides for the kids. Texas Station and the Fiesta, neighboring casinos that are owned by the same company, will combine to host their fireworks show at 9 p.m.

Sam Boyd Stadium is re-entering the fireworks display game with a "Lite Up the Night" show that includes BMX demonstrations and a performance by impressionist Bill Acosta.

The free show starts at 5 p.m. and concludes with fireworks at 9 p.m.

The most expensive event ($20 for adults, $10 for kids 5-18) is the "Star Spangled Spectacular" in Summerlin at the west part of town. The Las Vegas Philharmonic will perform at 7:30 p.m. and also during the fireworks display.

Earlier in the day, a parade in Summerlin will be held at 9 a.m. For those who want to be more than a spectator, the Las Vegas Running Team hosts a 5K run and one-mile walk at 7 a.m. (registration at 6:35 a.m.) at Bunker Family Park on Alexander. The $30 entry fee goes to charity.

Nearby Henderson will host its eighth annual Fourth of July celebration with a full-day celebration and fireworks at 9 p.m.

Boulder City, the city that was built to accommodate Hoover Dam workers, will hold its 53rd annual Boulder City Damboree with a 9 a.m. parade and all-day activities leading up to fireworks at 9 p.m.

Down the road in Laughlin, 90 miles south of Las Vegas on U.S. 95, the city will host its 10th annual Rockets Over the River fireworks display. The free show is at dusk and can be seen from any hotel/casino, as it appears over the Colorado River while choreographed to music being simulcast by local radio stations.

Sports Notes

Pete Sampras was upset Monday morning at Wimbledon and Martina Hingis was ousted last week, so both No. 1 seeds have bit the grass.

Hopefully no bettors listened to longtime NBC analyst Bud Collins when he said on a Wimbledon preview show last Sunday that the decision to seed 32 players will eliminate major upsets at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. With the top seeds now out, it is easier for bookmakers to guarantee a profit, by adjusting the odds on individual matches to limit any liabilities in their future books.

Phil Mickelson won the Greater Hartford Open over the weekend, but no one got rich on him. Mickelson was the 6-1 favorite, which is usually the case when he's in a tournament and Tiger Woods isn't. Mickelson won for the second time this year and is second to Woods on the PGA money list, but golf fans/bettors are waiting for him to shed his reputation as the "best player to never win a major."

Station Casinos will close its Winston Cup future book betting Saturday night, with the start of the Pepsi 400. The NASCAR circuit is returning to Daytona International Speedway for the first time since Dale Earnhardt's death. Jeff Gordon is currently the 5-7 favorite to win the season title with Dale Jarrett next at 7-5. The Pepsi 400 is the 17th of 36 Winston Cup races this year.

The title is almost always won by race No. 20, so we close the future book at this time of year because no one is going to bet anyone but the leaders," said Micah Roberts, race and sports book manager at Santa Fe Station.

Interleague play resumes in baseball this weekend. The American League holds a 64-62 edge so far this season. The San Francisco Giants won't have a chance to add to their league-best 7-2 record; they're facing the Milwaukee Brewers of the NL. Because there are 16 teams in the NL and 14 in the AL, two NL teams must face off.