With the vibrant, illuminate city of Las Vegas as its first-time backdrop, Lightfair International kicks off its ninth conference and exposition this month with a host of workshops and exhibits. As one of the leading industry events with architectural and commercial lighting as its subject, Lightfair features more than 350 exhibiting manufacturers spread out over 100,000 sq. ft. of show space.

Lightfair attendees begin learning even before the show doors open, as pre-show workshops provide attendees with a jump start on absorbing information on industry trends. Among the workshops on Tuesday, May 26, are "The Quality of the Visual Environment"; "Fiber Optics Workshop: Design, Installation and New Technologies" (presented by Lighting Dimensions magazine); and "Painting With Light: Lighting Design Techniques for Residential Spaces."

The conference continues with six seminar tracks aimed at different segments of the lighting design industry. On Wednesday, the seminar program includes:

* The Entertainment Architecture Track, sponsored by Architectural Record and Sweet's Group, featuring such topics as "The Magic Behind Cirque du Soleil," "Casino Lighting: It's All in the Game" and "The Power of Color."

* The Research & Technology Track, sponsored by Zumtobel Staff Lighting, featuring "Lighting on the Internet: What's Working and What Isn't" and "Your Lighting Wish List: Why Don't They Make This Product?"

* The Energy & Facilities Track, sponsored by Energy User News, featuring "Maintenance After the Fact: The Party's Over" and "Lighting Guidelines and Energy Update 1998."

On Thursday and Friday, the seminar pool adds a few new tracks to the lineup, including Lighting Cultures, Design Process & Specification, and Design Applications tracks. Some topics will cover the history and future of lighting technology as well as lighting as an art form. The design tracks will feature reports on decorative luminaries usage, ratcheting outdoor retail, lighting for all generations, and safety and security outdoors.

While piquing interest and provoking thought, Lightfair allows its seminars and forums to share the spotlight with many special events. During the event, architectural, engineering and design professionals can take part in the annual International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) awards dinner; an evening at Cirque du Soleil; the Nuckolls Fund for lighting education luncheon; the Designers Lighting Forum luncheon; and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) International Illumination Design Awards breakfast.

Sponsored by the IALD and IESNA, and produced and managed by Atlanta-based AMC Inc., Lightfair International's trade show and conference program is expected to attract more than 12,000 industry professionals. In 1999, the show plans to hold its lighting court at Moscone Center in San Francisco.