Grand Canal | The Venetian, Las Vegas | 03.21.12  | 9:15 p.m.

Sound system

Visitors enjoy background music emanating from 50 custom three-sided speakers created by engineering specialist AVI-SPL. Founded in 1979 by Martin Schaffel, Audio Visual Innovations (AVI) merged with Signal Perfection Limited (SPL) in 2008. The Tampa company is now run by CEO John Zettel and has 32 offices and 1,500 employees across the country. AVI-SPL completed more than 6,000 projects in 2011-including custom AV systems for The Dubai Mall and theme parks in Singapore, Korea, and Thailand-and booked $550 million in sales.


Gondoliers on the quarter-mile-long Grand Canal use oars made by Orono, Maine-based Shaw & Tenney, each carved from a solid piece of native Maine red maple. Founded as the Orono Manufacturing Company by Frank Tenney in 1858, the oarmaker merged with the George Shaw Company in the late 19th century and has changed hands twice since. Now owned by former mechanical engineer Steve Holt, Shaw & Tenney sells about 3,000 oars and paddles per year directly to customers in all 50 states, and more through dealers in Australia and Germany. The seven-person company also makes masts, spars, flagpoles, and handwoven baskets.

Indoor sky

Even if they never go outside, The Venetian's three million annual visitors can catch a glimpse of blue sky by looking up at the trompe l'oeil ceiling. Sky Art Karen Kristin of Cortez, Colorado, used 250 gallons of water-based acrylic paint to create the 105,000-square-foot faux sky. Standing on the ground, Sky Art's owner and president, Karen Kristin, used a laser pointer to direct painters on aerial boom lifts equipped with spray guns. Kristin, who worked as a scenic artist in Hollywood, started the company, which has two full-time employees, in 1988. It has also created indoor skyscapes and murals for Caesars Palace, The Venetian Macao, and private homes and offices in the United States, India, and Mexico.

Themed construction

The Venetian is home to more than 120 stores and restaurants. To create an Italian Renaissance look, Midwest Drywall of Wichita used 3,000 pictures of Venetian landmarks to model 100,000 square feet of indoor painted façades, as well as the hotel's exterior columns, trim, and moldings. The business was founded in 1972, and former carpenter Steve Nienke became president in 1978. The 700-person company, which has eight locations around the country, had sales of $85 million last year.