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Culture club

When Las Vegas turns 100 next year - really turns 100, not play-pretend turns 100 at the whim of a history-fudging mayor - it'll also mark the 100th birthday of culture in Southern Nevada. The Mesquite Club will mark its 100th anniversary in February. It's largely known as a "women's charitable organization," but that clunky phrase doesn't capture the impact these women have had on culture in Southern Nevada.

"Everything they did enhanced the lifestyle in this dusty place," says Joan Powell, club president. "The books members donated became the backbone of the first library in Las Vegas. They started the rose garden at Lorenzi Park. They raised the seed money for what would later be Judy Bayley Theater at UNLV."

The origin of the name is kind of cool, too. The story goes that the legendary Helen J. Stewart, a founding member, called meetings to order with a gavel made of the tree's wood, and often exhorted women to be as resilient as mesquite. No wonder that today the club boasts a membership of more than 200.

Their staying power? Undeniable. PR machine? Could use a little work.

"People have no idea we're still alive and kicking," says Powell. The group's Sept. 21 party kicking off the cultural season should help get the word out. Info: www.mesquiteclublasvegas.com

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