It's the most popular show in Vegas; has a cast of thousands and a crew of more than 100 ... And it's free.
Each year more than 5 million visitors, 15,000 -- 18,000 per day, take time out from gambling, clubbing and shopping to experience the floral extravaganza of one of five horticultural shows in the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
For the Bellagio, the Conservatory show is an intrinsic part of the hotel's allure.
When guests think of Bellagio, the thoughts are of the magnificent fountains, the Chihuly ceiling in the grand lobby, and the beauty of the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens amongst all of the property's other amenities. Visitors to Bellagio expect a spectacular show and our Horticulture Department provides this experience.
Beginning with Chinese New Year in January and changing through spring, summer, fall and finally winter, the conservatory mounts each show with the creativity and lavishness that a Broadway producer would envy.
Like a Broadway show, these floral theatrical productions take months of work and an army of talented people, plus a colorful cast of players - here thousands of flowers, trees and plants - to pull off.
Planning for each show begins two to three months before it debuts. Design meetings are held every week and ideas come from a variety of sources. The Bellagio has 120 people working on its horticultural staff in a variety of areas including the conservatory, interior and exterior floral and grounds maintenance and floral design. This doesn't include the numerous employees from engineering, electrical, water design and more who all help contribute to the final product.
The conservatory staff is always listening, looking for the next inspiration and it's not just the hotel staff that's voicing an opinion during the design phase. Visitors to the garden play an active role in what gets installed.
Design work continues up to the day the show opens as the Conservatory staff wrestles with any surprises that come up along the way.
The logistics of the show change-outs are staggering. Over the course of seven days, the staff of 120 works 24-hours a day to transform the 13,573-square-foot conservatory.
Potted flowers and plants - more than 10,000 - are ordered months in advance from suppliers in Southern California. The plants arrive shortly before the exhibit and are housed temporarily in a 40,000-square-foot, off-site greenhouse. Props, stored in a 24,000-square-foot warehouse, are trucked to the hotel.
Cranes help the staff position the larger pieces like 16-foot tall glass poppies and the 40-foot tall 1922 Ferris wheel used in the summer exhibit. Tunnels run under the Conservatory's floor to allow even more access.
Even after the change out, work for the Conservatory staff doesn't end. Most of the watering is done by hand and every two weeks more than 10,000 potted flowers are switched out. The old plants are then recycled, providing mulch for the rest of the Bellagio. Ninety percent of the Conservatory is recycled.
It's easy to get lost discussing the numbers when you talk about the conservatory. But it's not the numbers that make the gardens the must-see show in Vegas. Numbers don't encompass the driving emotion behind the horticultural staff's work.