Nevada History
by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Nevada's Birthday

December, 20010
By John Evanoff

My recollections of Nevada’s birthday celebrations go back to when Bill Harrah was still alive and was still participating in regional parades by donating several of his antique cars from his huge 2,000 plus classic auto collection for entertainers, politicians and himself to ride in down main streets in Reno (Virginia Street), Sparks (4th Street-now Victorian Blvd) and Carson City (Carson Street). At that time, the auto collection museum was housed in two giant warehouses way out on Glendale (East 2nd Street). The classic cars in the Nevada Day parade in Carson City I remember best were filled with notable stars including two of the cast of the hit television series Bonanza (Lorne Green and Michael Landon) who were Grand Marshals that year and politicians including the governor at the time, Grant Sawyer. I was riding my mustang quarter horse with other high school rodeo contestants behind a Nevada 4-H float and the Reno High School Band. Later in life, I again was part of the parade with the Reno Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) when I was an executive officer for them for several years in the late 1970’s. We rode down Carson Street then in our Black Maria (pronounced Mariah) Paddywagon throwing pins to the adults and handing candy to the children and giving rides to those spectators who we volunteered in our amusing prison escort vehicle. All was in fun of course and we always gave the volunteer prisoners a Reno Jaycee garter to commemorate their ride with us.

Nevada became a state October 31, 1864 and Nevada Day is now celebrated on the last Friday in October with the parade running on the Saturday following. The parade celebrates Nevada’s heritage and is usually themed according to current activities and events. The 2010 event is the 72nd year of the parade themed “100 Years of Aviation in Nevada.” In celebration of the theme, the Grand Marshall will be Dick Rutan who flew around the world non-stop in the Voyager aircraft in 1986. The communities of Nevada are represented from all corners of the state with high school bands, college bands, men’s and women’s associations, notable city, state and county politicians, Sheriff horse mounted groups, police departments, fire departments, Indian Tribes, Military groups, equestrian organizations, casino industry floats, small and large business entrants, and a host of recognizable entertainment celebrities. Even a few surrounding states like California and Washington send public service officials, marching bands and floats to the parade. The community spirit during Nevada Day festivities is truly genuine with tens of thousands of residents and tourists lining the main street in front of the Capital Building and all along Carson Street to enjoy the parade and surrounding festivities. Nevada Day’s parade day festivities and events include an early morning (8:15am) 8k run followed by a 2 mile run and 2 mile walk race, a pancake breakfast put on by the Carson City Republican Women’s Club which usually begins at 7am, a beard contest, a rock drilling contest, balloon launch and rides, musical performances, an annual free chili feed at the Carson Nugget and the annual High School Marching Band Competition. There is also the Grand Marshall’s dinner the night before at the Carson Nugget and the Governor’s Ball in Virginia City’s Piper’s Opera House the evening of the same day as the parade at 7pm.

Needless to say, the Nevada Day event is one of the more spectacular of its kind in the entire United States. So much is packed into the two days that you may want to visit each and every year just to catch up on all of the fun events.

Now I’ll tell you a little of the out of the ordinary part of Nevada Day. Although Nevada gained admission in 1864, Nevada Day was not celebrated anywhere in the state until 1891 and then only in Virginia City when a few hardy miners and townsfolk got together to follow a drummer beating his drum down the street from bar to bar, drinking all along the way and picking up fellows to pay for more beers till the end of the day. Reno picked up the parade idea in 1914 when then Governor Tasker Oddie (Oddie Boulevard got its name from the Governor) proclaimed the day a public holiday. For more than twenty years, a small group of Reno residents named the “Society of Nevadans” brought sponsors together from around the Truckee Meadows, Carson City, Elko and Susanville for the annual Admissions Day event in Reno. Then in 1933, the legislature finally changed Admission day to Nevada Day, but the event lost sponsors and enthusiasm when in some years the day fell on a midweek day. In 1938, Carson City’s Judge Clark Guild, famous for his successful effort to create the Nevada State Museum and a Reno marketing genius named Tom Wilson got together and created enthusiasm for the event in Carson City by moving the legislature to pass a law making Nevada Day an official state holiday on the final weekend of October in the state capital. There were no Nevada Day events or parades during World War II between 1942 and 1944 though. The event constantly moved around from Friday to Monday at the end of October every year from 1945 until 1998 when a legislative ballot was finally passed by Nevada voters to have the celebration commemorated on the last Friday of the month and thus the parade and most of the festivities followed on Saturday.

Many folks I grew up with in Northern Nevada feel Nevada Day is still special to them and they regularly visit Carson City for the event just about every year. Some participate in the parade itself and others just go to enjoy the event. A few have lost interest though and many groups who used to be part of the parade from outside the region including tourists have stopped coming. With the freeway (US395) now bypassing most of Carson City, the main road thru town (Carson Street or Old Highway 395 South) can now be totally cordoned off for all of the festivities and parade making it much easier to appreciate and move around. If you want to get into the spirit of Nevada, the Nevada Day celebration in Carson City is a must to put on your calendar. I have a quick suggestion though; drive to Carson City early in the morning to beat the crowd and be there for the whole day or visit the day before on Friday and stay through Saturday evening to come back on Sunday. It’s just too much fun to miss.


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