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October 18, 2018

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Boulder Station draws the young-at-heart

Has Boulder Station discovered the Fountain of Youth?

A place where the not-so-young can kick up their heels, recapture those pre-rock 'n' roll days, forget about the Polident and the Bengay and the Geritol?

"You can come here and feel good, like you're a young person," said 69-year-old Evelyn Valerie, a petite, fiesty woman who loves to dance and socialize.

It's almost as if the spaceship in the 1985 film "Cocoon," which took seniors away to a planet where they would live forever, had landed at the Station's Railhead club.

For the past couple of years the hotel-casino has offered senior citizens, ages 55 and over, special discounts and activities as part of its Very Important Seniors (VI$) program.

The average age is around 60, although one VI$ member was 88.

General Manager Bob Finch said that it is the company's way of "giving back to the community. They grew the company and it's our way to thank them."

The thank-you effort has proven so successful that there is a mailing list of about 13,000. The three other Station casinos in town (Sunset, Palace and Texas) will follow suit in March.

"We recognize seniors are a large portion of our business at Boulder," Vice President of Marketing Stefanie Johnson said.

"Boulder is surrounded by an older, established community and so we have a lot of seniors close by," Finch noted.

Johnson says that senior citizens represent the fastest-growing segment of the Southern Nevada population, and it was important for the company to do something for them.

It made the right choice.

"It's been very well received," Johnson said. "It is free to join. You just have to sign up for a Boarding Pass."

Each month Boulder Station offers a number of activities and discounts, such as a free dessert when you buy an entree at the Iron Horse Cafe. There are also movie discounts, bingo and slot discounts on certain nights and an assortment of seminars, such as discussions on estate planning, how to use the Internet, buying a car and adopting a pet.

There will be a "sweetheart dance" on Valentine's Day.

"We try to keep it fresh. We keep adding stuff all the time," Finch said.

Most activities take place Monday through Friday during the daylight hours, although some things are available seven days a week. "Basically, it's all about being social," Finch said. "It's a place for people to gather."

Two of the most popular activities are stretching exercises Tuesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m. and dancing on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m., which is called the "Entertainment Cavalcade."

Finch said that dancing used to be on Thursdays and probably will be moved back to that day soon because it is the more popular time.

The Johnny Jay Band and Jerry Tiffe Orchestra alternate playing on Wednesdays through January. During the dance, which usually is packed, light refreshments are served.

Big Band. Country. Line dances. Karaoke. Swing. Rock. It doesn't matter. If there's music, these youngsters will dance to it.

"I've been coming here since last April," Valerie, who moved to Las Vegas in 1977, said. "They have great talent, all retired professionals. Sometimes the place is so crowded you can't dance."

Valerie used to dance with the Happy Hoofers, a seniors' tap dance group, but now can be found getting down at Boulder. "Boulder Station is the only one catering to the seniors," Valerie said. "I've gone to senior citizens' centers, several are nice but nothing like this."

Flo Chiusano, 67, and her husband, Pat, 69, are also regular visitors. "It is fabulous," Flo Chiusano said. "It's an excellent way to meet people."

The couple moved here from Southern California five years ago after Pat Chiusano retired from a steel company. "I've made so many new friends since coming here," Flo Chiusano said. "I can't begin to tell you how many people we've met with the exercising and the dancing. It's important that we have a place to go besides senior centers. You meet people here you won't meet at a senior center."

She said that she and her husband decided to retire to Las Vegas because there is always something going on. "You never have to be bored out of your mind," she said. "I'm not a sit-at-home person, and Boulder has a lot of activities."

"This is a fantastic thing Boulder is doing," Valerie said. "I have told so many people about it. Word of mouth is the best advertising."

Gino Riggio, 63, is the "senior ambassador" for Boulder Station. Among his many duties is to help organize the events. Riggio can even be found dancing with the members when he isn't busy doing something else.

"This is all entertainment to me," Riggio said.

Most of his adult life has been spent in and around the entertainment world. Riggio was a laborer in the motion picture industry for a while, and was also a drummer for Eddie Cochran in the '50s. Cochran wrote and recorded the rock 'n' roll classic "Summertime Blues" before he was killed at the age of 22 in a car wreck in England in 1960. Additionally, Riggio was a drummer for singer Trini Lopez from 1964 to 1973, cutting 13 albums with him.

Sometimes Riggio joins whatever band is playing for the VI$ members. He joins members for stretching exercises every Tuesday and Friday morning. "I have never seen so many grateful seniors," Riggio said, adding that those who come to the Boulder are actually a young crowd -- because they stay active.

"It's all about attitude," he said.

And it is about friendships, Johnson added.

"The program," she said, "has become a place where people are forming relationships."