Monday, Aug. 17, 2015 | 6:06 p.m.
Sure, sisters Anna and Elsa of “Frozen” fame had been inching Hello Kitty out of my 6-year-old daughter’s wardrobe and toy chest. But for a magical couple of hours Friday, Hello Kitty was front-and-center in her heart and the hearts of hundreds of girls and boys, young and old.
The reason? Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival had set up shop for a three-night stand at Orleans Arena.
My daughter and son didn’t know what to expect when we loaded into the car for the drive to the Orleans. All they knew was that Dad finally was delivering on the surprise he had promised them earlier in the week.
Heck, Dad didn’t even know what to expect.
A few steps inside the arena, and the expectations became clearer. Brightly colored, cartoon-decorated booths filled the arena floor. Oversized heads of Hello Kitty and her friends hung overhead. All of them signaled that this was Hello Kitty heaven.
“This is awesome, Dad!” my daughter said when she stepped into the arena.
It soon became apparent that she wasn’t the only one awed by the experience. Fans of all ages turned out for the festival honoring Hello Kitty, the “little girl with a heart of gold” created in 1974 by Sanrio.
They were decked out in Hello Kitty shirts, skirts, socks and shoes. They accessorized with Hello Kitty watches, carried Hello Kitty purses, had Hello Kitty bows and clips in their hair.
They sported Hello Kitty jewelry, clutched Hello Kitty dolls and pillows. More than a few Hello Kitty tattoos were visible. But enough about Hello Kitty’s adult fans.
My daughter and her brother couldn’t get to the arena floor fast enough. First stop was the “Share a Smile Kiosk” for a photo in front of a mural of Hello Kitty and her friends Dear Daniel, My Melody, Badtz-Madu, Chococat, Purin and Keroppi.
There was a station where visitors could draw their own Hello Kitties and Badtz-Madus on display boards or color a book page of Hello Kitty and friends on nearby tables.
There was a Hello Kitty penny press, Sanrio Friendship Forest, Hello Kitty’s couture display (one of the gowns was made entirely of Hello Kitty’s trademark red bows; another, this one floor-length, was made of dozens of Hello Kitty dolls sewn together).
The Hello Kitty Paper Play station had origami Hello Kitty bows and other kits ready to be built. An oversized Hello Kitty bounce house rose in the air.
There was, of course, a face-painting cart, Badtz-Madu temporary tattoo station and Post Office where you could send a postcard to Hello Kitty, among other areas.
Shows on two stages produced many of the night’s highlights, including the main stage with productions led by Hello Kitty.
Sporting their temporary tattoos (my daughter opted for the Little Twin Stars on her arm, while the boy selected a traditional Hello Kitty that now covered his left hand) and wearing a Hello Kitty headband featuring kitty ears and a bow, the kids and I took our seats stage left for the show, “Small Gift, Big Smile.”
In it, the real Hello Kitty shares gifts with each of her friends, which sparked several song-and-dance numbers, including one to the tune of “Secret Agent Man” and another to “Tiny Bubbles.”
The oversized characters onstage left my kids, especially my daughter, spellbound.
“I just want to go up there and hug all of them,” she sighed during a number in which My Melody received her gift from Hello Kitty.
The cherry on top of it all came after another trip to the bounce house (“Dad, we want to jump in Hello Kitty’s tummy again!”) when we discovered a line for photos with Hello Kitty.
It was only a few minutes before the star of the show was scheduled to come out for photos, and the line had just begun forming. The kids dutifully got in line and waited.
Then she appeared.
Wearing a red-and-white striped shirt, blue jumper with white buttons and white piping, red boots and the familiar red bow on the right side of her head, Hello Kitty was just steps away.
Time seemed suspended as those in front of my kids got their chance to meet and have their photo taken with Hello Kitty. Finally, it was their chance.
Hello Kitty reached out and hugged both of them. The kids were ecstatic and could hardly stand still for their photos. It was over in seconds.
What was the reaction of my daughter, the more talkative of my kids, to meeting Hello Kitty?
“I thought I could be best friends with her,” she said. “I like her, and actually I never get to see her in real life.”
Unable to top having a photo op with the world’s most famous feline (even if her creators insist that she’s a girl), we said goodbye to Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival.
At home, my daughter climbed into bed. She was clutching one of her Hello Kitty dolls and resting on her Hello Kitty pillow. Anna and Elsa, at least for the time being, were the ones “Frozen” out.
John Taylor is the copy chief of the Las Vegas Sun.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
True to its namesake, The Orleans gives visitors a year-round Mardi Gras feeling with a New Orleans French Quarter environment.
Located just a short way from the center of gambling on the Strip, The Orleans offers a collection of attractions that helps to draw in a mix of locals and visitors.
In addition to the 1,885 hotel rooms and 134,000-square foot casino, the property has a 70-lane bowling center, an 18-screen movie theater, an 850-seat showroom and a 9,500-seat arena, home to the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team.
The hotel also has 14 dining options, including Canal Street, The Prime Rib Loft, Koji Sushi Bar & China Bistro and Big Al’s Oyster Bar.