The Travelling Student – Halloween in Vegas

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In the last part I flew from Quebec to Las Vegas. While my final destination was Australia, I had decided to stop in Vegas for the Money2020 conference, which would kick off on Halloween night.
I stepped out of the hotel and, with some extra time on my hands, decided I’d walk the strip. As I walked, the sun sank below the horizon and the Halloween crowd started to appear. There was no lack of creativity on the strip. Among my favourites were someone dressed as Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, which included a baby-strap?complete with fake baby.

The Vegas strip is lined with casinos. Many of which are as thematic as the Halloween costumes people were wearing. For example: Treasure Island?a pirate themed casino; Excalibur?a medieval themed casino; and Luxor?an Ancient Egyptian themed casino (complete with giant pyramid). More impressive than the themes, however, are the extravagant displays in front of many of the casinos. As I walked past the Bellagio their iconic Fountain Show began. Several large fountains spray in impressive unison, in sync with music and lighting. Not far from the Bellagio, a crowd gathers around for its volcano show. While the volcano is fake, flame-throwers around it shoot real fire, hot enough to make the crowd sweat.

All around the strip, party promoters tried to get people with the best costumes into their club or bar. Unfortunately, my costume, which consisted of a single eye patch, didn’t get much attention.

Finally, I reached my destination Aria Resort and Casino, where the Money2020 conference was being held. While Aria has no overarching theme, it encompasses all aspects of modernity, the building makes use of modern design and features large, multi-media displays on the outside. An appropriate place for a tech conference, the Aria has been described as possibly “?the most technologically advanced hotel ever built” by Popular Mechanics.

After checking in and getting my pass for the event, I headed to the Haze, a nightclub inside the casino. A small crowd had gathered outside the nightclub, people who, like myself, were a half hour early. Anxious to find others attending the Hackathon I struck up a conversation with a man in a suit waiting outside. He explained that he worked for MasterCard and was there sponsoring the event and promoting tools made by MasterCard to website and app developers. One of the more interesting tools was the MasterCard Places API which gives access to trending locations based on where people are using MasterCard credit cards. For example, an arena would start to trend during a hockey game as people used their credit cards there. On a smaller scale the API can be used to find up and coming restaurants based on purchase trends.

As we waited in line another line started building up beside us. A line only filled with people wearing outstanding costumes and a green wristband to prove they’d been invited. Not long after, their line started pouring into the club. The bumping of the bass could be heard from inside as well as the cheers of party-goers. After they were in, our line started moving. Soon we’d be inside, ourselves.