Thousands of parade-goers lined downtown streets to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.
“People love the sun, the music, the drums. It’s fun,” said Liliyane Yacin of Las Vegas. “It’s carnival style.”
The Mexican Independence weekend celebration is fast becoming one of Vegas’ busiest all year, according to the Las Vegas Visitors Bureau.
Organizers don’t have attendance estimates — they go by hotel occupancy rates. There’s no estimate for this year yet; for last year’s celebration, the rate was 95 percent.
Mexican immigration has largely driven a significant Hispanic population increase in Nevada — from 444,718 in 2000 to 738,295, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a jump of 66 percent.
“People are tired, you know after the recession,” Yacin said. “People want to have fun. Everybody wants to come, drink, party, no stress.”
It started as a simple celebration a few years ago, but the event rapidly increased in size. Now, Sin City treats it as one of its “branded” weekends.
Hotels bring in big name acts like Alejandro Fernandez and Luis Miguel. There are Mexican-themed events all weekend. And the city now airs commercials in Mexico months in advance, hoping to draw visitors from south of the border.
The campaign is paying off. This year, an additional 37 flights flew from Mexico into Vegas for the weekend.
Aurora Deleone brought her friends and family from California. She told Fox News Latino it brings out a sense of pride to see her culture celebrated.
“It’s important for me to come out and support and also teach this to my children down the line,” Deleone said.
Marsha Lee flew in from Michigan.
“Instead of my culture, I wanted to see another culture,” Lee said. “And, right now what I’m seeing, it’s really nice.”
Even locals like Mark Fagan and his wife braved the crowds to join in on the festivities.
“We wanted to come check it out,” Fagan said.
The Vegas visitors’ bureau said it pulled in 440,000 tourists from Mexico in 2012. With the help of the independence holiday weekend, the volume is expected to grow this year.
Deleone, for one, said she will be back next year.
“Most definitely, and I will support it.”
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC