Friday Field Trip: Nevada Day Parade

Every year, except this year (COVID19, you know), Carson City, Nevada shuts down its main street to hold the country’s largest event celebrating statehood. The story of just how Nevada joined the union reminds us that finagling the rules to win elections isn’t new. And contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t because the US needed our silver for the Civil War. It was because of the electoral college.

According to this source:

“Nevada became the 36th state on October 31, 1864, after telegraphing the Constitution of Nevada to the Congress days before the November 8 presidential election (the largest and costliest transmission ever by telegraph). Statehood was rushed to help ensure three electoral votes for Abraham Lincoln’s reelection and add to the Republican congressional majorities. Nevada became the second of two states added to the Union during the Civil War (the first being West Virginia) and became known as the “Battle Born State” as a result of when it achieved statehood.”

But we no longer celebrate on October 31. In 2000, the Nevada Legislature decided to make Nevada Day a three-day weekend that would generate more “interest”—meaning crowds, tourism, and money. So, Nevada Day is now observed on the last Friday in October, with most of the big events in Carson City, including the parade, occurring on the following Saturday.

How big a deal is a small-town parade? Pretty big.

Days ahead, hardcore parade fans back up their trucks, vans, and RVs in parking lots that line Carson Street. These will serve as their base of operations for what is essentially a huge outdoor party. The parade is hours long, with entries celebrating all aspects of Nevada history and culture. The party goes on much longer.

From NevadaGram in 2013:

“After the candidates the entries are so varied it’s hard to establish that many separate categories. A Senior Care Center. An Indian Princess. Carson City. Duckwater Shoshone Tribe. Carson Lanes Family Fun Center. The Bunny Ranch Brothel float followed The Nevada Rainbow Girls and The Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates, and was followed in turn by the Northern Nevada Dental Hygiene Association.”

Details of all Nevada Day 2020 events—including a reverse parade, the beard growing contest, balloon launch, rock drilling, Nevada film festival and more–are here at CarsonNow and on the Nevada Day Facebook page.

For me, the best part of Nevada Day is walking the parade route (up one side of the street and down the other) and seeing old friends that I perhaps haven’t seen since the last Nevada Day. Afterward I might buy an Indian Taco from a street vendor or a drink from the Old Globe and then visit with friends near the Single Jack Rock Drilling contest.

In my novel, Us, Now and Then, Libby’s mom makes a huge pot of chili for an after-parade open house every year. Libby and Jack continue the tradition, but instead Jack makes posole—a spicy stew with chorizo and hominy. The recipe is here.

If you’re a Nevadan, what parts of Nevada Day do you look forward to? Do you stay in town or take advantage of a three-day weekend to get away? If you’re not from Nevada, in what unique ways does your state celebrate its admission to the union?

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