NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — It's all here, everything under the sun.

Bicycles, washing machines, wheelchairs, knives and monkey wrenches. It's as if a department store's innards have been exposed — spread on blankets, crammed into milk crates, arranged in glass cases, hung next to the Minion piñatas twisting in the breeze.

Part yard sale, part winding retail treasure hunt, all-encompassing: Broadacres Marketplace and Event Center is alive on a Saturday morning. Everyone is welcome, and the clientele is as diverse as the wares.

About the only thing you can't find here is a roof.

The 45-acre maze of commerce, carnival rides and aguas frescas is akin to a dissembled puzzle spread out in a colorful jumble.

It draws more than 1.3 million visitors annually, every weekend, year-round, sorting through offerings of a thousand vendors a day, on average.

They come with their kids, their parents, their parents' parents — to shop, haggle, socialize, eat, drink and dance. Accordians get squeezed hard on a Friday night.

They apply for home loans, score a Metallica "Master of Puppets" lunch box, stock up on discount dog food and diapers, down a Michelada, celebrate a quinceañera.

Broadacres is a culture coalescing on a hardscrabble strip of Las Vegas Boulevard North, near Pecos Road, blossoming like a flower growing between the cracks of a sidewalk.

What Broadacres represents for Las Vegas' Latino population is especially profound.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, Latinos account for 32.7 percent of Las Vegas' population — substantially higher than the 18 percent they comprise of the U.S. population.

"This is kind of like a piece of their land," Broadacres General Manager Yovana Alonso tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal , "a piece of Mexico, of Salvador, wherever that community comes from."

Like Broadacres itself, this is no small thing.

"It's a cultural gathering place," says Peter Guzman, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. "It's a trusted place. It's authentic: the food, the entertainment.

"It's a safe place," he adds. "It's way beyond being just a swap meet."

It's the kind of place you can see with your eyes closed: The sharp tang of citrusy cleaning products; the appetite-rousing aroma of grilled meats wafting from the food fair; the barnyard blend of hay and horses emanating from the lot where kids ride ponies in a circle.

Sounds register resoundingly: A chorus of children's shrieks rendering fun and fear aboard the tilt-a-whirl; Slayer blasting from a T-shirt vendor's booth, warring with mariachi music; the thwack of machete into coconut, as a teenager with a backward ball cap hacks halves for a steady stream of customers.

This is commerce as proud democracy: Weekend resale warriors offering the contents from their garage on a couple of card tables vie for eyeballs alongside professional displays like you'd find in a mall.

Vendors either pay by day, picking whatever spot might be available at the moment, or reserve a space for multiple days or a month at a time.

Reserve sellers need a business license and a Nevada sales tax ID number. The rates they pay depend on where they're located. Spots beneath Broadacres' permanent structure cost the most.

"It's a launching pad for real entrepreneurship," Guzman says. "When I walk around there, I look around and see it, man."

Carlos Figueroa, owner of Alexis Video Games, founded his business here eight years ago, beginning with just a couple of consoles.

Now he's beneath the red awning affixed with brightly colored video-game controllers that stick out like high-tech buck teeth, shading tables loaded with Playstation 2 and Xbox titles.

"It's a very important place, because it gives you the opportunity to be known," Figueroa says of Broadacres in his native Spanish on a Saturday afternoon. "It's open to everybody."

The competition here is sibling-rivalry fierce, and finding one's niche can take years. This goes double for certain products, such as kid's toys, with far more vendors than there are variations on plastic M16s and princess tiara sets.

Factory Toys proprietor Irene Flores was introduced to Broadacres by her sister, who sold clothes here. Flores began her business in 2006 on a budget of $300.

Five years ago, she finally was able to go full-time by regularly selling enough inflatable Batman beach balls and Puppy Dog Pals stuffed animals.

"I started investing 3½ years before starting to earn profits. Investing, investing, investing," she says in Spanish, friendly and approachable, but practically perfumed in exasperation. "Now I have what I have, which is a lot. But it hasn't been easy."

Haitian accent as thick as the stack of deodorant sticks piled before him, Wilbert Talice calls the marketplace "good for the little people — the people who don't have money."

Swap meet sales are cheaper than the stores like Walmart, he says. "I think it's good for the community."

"The best thing is that it keeps the money in the community," says Sergio Octaviano, who co-owns the Latino's Rock T-shirt and music merch store with his wife, Monica. Speaking in Spanish he says, "For me, this place is a great part of the economy of North Las Vegas."

The Octavianos are decidedly hands-on with customers — Sergio routinely breaks away from conversations to help people find a shirt from a band they're looking for.

Broadacres was born of practicality — of necessity, even — enabling its clientele to purchase something as essential as Pampers at prices they can manage, tax free.

Broadacres may now entertain, but at its core, it's still about helping people get by — about the people as much as the place.

"It's the atmosphere," Alonso, the general manager, explains. "It feels like home."


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

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