Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 | 12:30 a.m.
Before accepting his prize at the Neon Museum Thursday night, before sliding on a yellow Expedia.ca T-shirt under his black dress shirt, before all the excitement of traveling to a place he had never been, Jeff Carson was stuck in Manitoba, Canada, waiting for a plane that had been covered with ice.
After 24 hours of travel and waiting, Carson and his five guests were able to cash in on their all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, a perk earned through a victory in the Expedia.ca “Light Up Vegas” contest. Expedia.ca is the Canadian version of Expedia.com, the American online travel site.
The promotion invited people to design a classic, Las Vegas-style sign. After 10 minutes online using templates provided by the contest, Carson had his design.
Carson, who does quality control for a farm equipment manufacturer in Manitoba, said weeks passed before a strange email from Grip Limited appeared in his inbox.
“Dear Jeff, you have won the Expedia contest for ‘Light Up Vegas,’” the email said.
He was wary of the good news.
“I thought, well that looks OK, but I’ve never heard of Grip Limited. I think it must be spam,” Carson said.
He called Expedia.ca to check.
“No it’s fake, it’s not real. You haven’t won anything,” the folks at the travel site said.
But the next day he received another email from Grip Limited, prompting another call to Expedia.ca.
Same answer. Delete the email. It’s spam.
Finally, the third congratulatory email he received told him it was his last chance to collect on the prize. He forwarded the email to Expedia.ca and finally was able to cash in.
The sign, bright yellow and standing well over 10 feet tall, will sit outside Bally’s for the rest of the weekend. The sign read “Jeff ‘Smooth’ Carson” with “Welcome to Las Vegas,” in smaller letters underneath.
The sign was made by YESCO, the maker of the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
The promotion, which drew 10,000 entries, was focused on Canadian tourists in an effort to draw a larger international audience. Michael Goldsmith, vice president of international sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said foreign visitors are big business.
“The international market is a huge focus of our local efforts,” he said. “They stay longer, they spend more, and they plan further in advance.”
After collecting the spoils of his victory, he was ready to hit the town in balmy Las Vegas. Winter would be there when he got back.