TWIN FALLS • Even if you’ve never been to Las Vegas, you may have seen Vegas Vic.
Or maybe it was Wendover Will.
For years, Vegas Vic has towered over Fremont Street in Sin City, waving at gamblers and pointing to the Pioneer Club below.
For almost as long, Wendover Will has performed a nearly identical job in West Wendover, Nev., directing folks to the Stateline Casino.
Much larger than life, both neon icons have become symbols of their towns. And along U.S. 93, south of Twin Falls, Idaho’s own version of Vic — or Will — waved at tourists bound for Nevada.
The 10-foot-tall, flat cowboy stood next to a roadside billboard advertising one of the casinos during the 1950s and ‘60s. Some say they vaguely remember the cowboy standing somewhere in Twin Falls after that.
Now he stands inside the Twin Falls County Historical Museum, a little weather-beaten and faded. He even sports a bullet hole above his lip, an injury he sustained during his roadside vigil.
But the question remains: Which casino does the flat cowboy represent? Is he Vegas Vic or Wendover Will?
The cowboy’s image first appeared in 1947, commissioned by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. In 1951, owners of the Pioneer Club turned the image into a giant neon sign, complete with a waving arm, bobbing cigarette, and a recording that boomed “Howdy Pardner!” every 15 minutes.
A similar image reappeared the following year in Wendover at the Stateline Casino, with the addition of a six-gun on his hip.
Twin Fall’s flat cowboy has a six-gun and a “Howdy Pardner” greeting.
Wendover Will and Vegas Vic still stand.
Vic stopped waving in 1966 when actor Lee Marvin and his film crew stayed in the Mint Hotel across the street. Legend has it that one of the filmmakers shot Vic to silence the “Howdy Pardner” greeting that kept him awake. Later, a Las Vegas minister married Vic and the nearby neon sign “Sassy Sally” when the Fremont Street Experience was constructed in the 1990s. The Pioneer Club closed soon after and is now a souvenir shop.
Will, the taller of the two cowboys, was included in the city seal when West Wendover was incorporated in 1991. He was moved away from the casino and now welcomes traffic into town. Will is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Largest Mechanical Cowboy.
Mychel Matthews reports on agriculture and health care for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday on Page 2. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@ magicvalley.com.