Ron Ischer keeps the lıghts on.
Aside from that, there’s not much more he needs you to know. The 21-year veteran of Fremont Street Experience is comfortable behind the scenes, aware that if he does his job right, no one should even know he was there.
His title, Entertainment Operations Maintenance Manager, preserves the mystery. Unless you caught his appearances on a couple of “odd jobs” reality shows, you wouldn’t know Ischer is the foremost expert on Fremont Street’s 1,500-foot canopy. Unless you’ve been Downtown in the dead of night, you’ve never seen him 90 feet in the air on a crane inspecting the 173,000 light panels that line the canopy’s ceiling.
There are 72 LEDs on every panel, each about the size of a Q-tip swab. That’s nearly 12.5 million tiny lights, and with his trained eyes, Ischer can tell from the ground if one goes out.
Even when his eyes are tired, like they are right now.
“I’m always tired,” he says, coming off another long night-turned-day. It’s just before noon at the Fremont Street Experience offices at Fourth and Fremont streets. Ischer’s day is winding down; he’s been on since 2:30 a.m.
“If I have to go somewhere and sit for a little while, I could fall asleep,” he says. “But I’m so used to this now. I’ve raised two kids through this graveyard shift.”
The shifts are about to get longer. Ischer’s team is readying for Fremont Street’s annual New Year’s Eve bash, America’s Party Downtown. He doesn’t expect to get much sleep between December 30 and January 1.
“I’m probably gonna wind up working a good 12 hours, getting a little bit of rest, and then coming back to the party and working another 12-hour shift,” he says.
“I’ve had my share of 20-hour shifts for New Year’s [Eve], and it could be that [long] this year,” he adds.
Ischer remembers the last time he spent the holiday on Fremont Street as a guest. It was 1995, the year he started working at the Experience. The crowds were smaller then, he recalls.
Now, he says, “The street is alive. I gotta make sure people have a good show.”
There’s a lot riding on this year’s party. Fremont Street Experience is replacing the midnight fireworks with street-level laser shows to give the event an Electric Daisy Carnival feel. Above the action, the canopy will debut the newest Viva Vision show featuring Green Day, “Revolution Vegas,” while 15 cover bands on three stages will entertain the expected crowds of 25,000–30,000 revelers.
When he’s not inspecting circuit boards and LEDs, Ischer is busy with the stage setup. But don’t expect to see him among the masses.
“I’m not a crowd person. I’ve been to one concert in my life, [which was] Jackson Browne,” he says. “I’m probably better off being behind the scenes.”
The Details: New Year’s Eve 2016
America’s Party Downtown
Hosted by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, ring in 2017 with 25,000 of your newest friends under Viva Vision, the largest digital display on the planet. The highlight of the night will be centered around a next generation, laser light spectacular from the producers of the Electric Daisy Carnival and Life Is Beautiful festivals. The show will provide an immersive, floor-to-ceiling sensory experience throughout the night. Also, Fremont Street Experience will premiere a new Viva Vision show, featuring Green Day, “Revolution Vegas.”
Entertainment includes 15 bands playing hit songs from the past three decades.
For an extra thrill, fly into the New Year superhero style on SlotZilla’s Zoomline.
New Year’s Eve 2017, America’s Party Downtown, tickets are $40 and are available at vegasexperience.com or at the SlotZilla box office.