I attended the Governor's Conference on Tourism in December. It was held at the Peppermill in Reno, in the new part, the part that isn't a maze of purple neon and mirrors. The event had been a landmark on the Nevada Tourism calendar since 1984 until the recent and ongoing financial disaster prompted cancellation of the 2008 event.
I attended the first conference as a member of the Tourism Commission staff, and I've attended most of them since. I rate this as one of the best conferences ever, with none of the bloat and overkill of previous efforts.
By definition, a conference is people talking and even a Governor's Conference is a poor opportunity for an interesting photo, so let's take a look at this video from the Carson Valley instead. Click here to visit their website.
This year's Conference was built from a different blueprint from the splendid affairs of the past, both in the sparse agenda and the monastic menus of food and drink. Instead of trying to create a 3-day Tourism University embracing workshops and presentations on every aspect of this multi-faceted industry, with banquet suppers and luncheon feasts interspersed, the planners pared everything down to the not-quite-bare essentials.
There was no chocolate fountain this time, no trays of champagne; there was not a caviar spoon to be seen, not a single shrimp in the room. Once upon a time Pete Barbutti entertained(?) the multitude at dinners fit for kings. This time: no Pete Barbutti, no dinner, no kings. Revolutionary.
The first general session began at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon with a presentation on "The Economic Outlook for Nevada's Target Market" (it's not great), followed by presentations on brand development and new modes of communication with travelers — broad topics of general interest rather than narrower slices interesting to some but not all attendees.
Some Nevada time travel in the final frames
And then instead of a dinner came an Evening Reception with a no host bar and some low-end hors d'ouvres. At first I worried that the more habituated attendees might suffer the bends when confronted with breaded cheese pops and chicken fingers. But if no-one was overwhelmed by the largesse, they still babbled eagerly away together and found enjoyment aplenty in one another's company.
Lunch on Wednesday was the big meal of the conference, and the Peppermill kitchen staff, released from their constraints, delivered a star turn. To my mind, the keystone presentation of the conference was the round table of casino hotel CEOs, who spoke less about gambling and more about resource management and marketing strategies during hard times, topics of broad general interest.
You can download presentations here. Next year's conference — there will surely be one — will be held in Las Vegas.
Santa had a busy night in Silver City.
Photo by Max Winthrop
The holiday season began for me at The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, where proprietors Loren and Sue Pursel were welcoming the early birds to "Crawl Back in Time", a festival for saloon-hoppers.
Start/Finish line for "Crawl Back in Time" at the Red Dog Saloon.
Photo by Max Winthrop
The event had a busy schedule of contests and special functions spread around town from saloon to saloon, and participants trooped from one to another in convivial fashion late into the night.
But I was not among them. From the Red Dog I went down to Silver City where the annual Volunteer Fire Department Christmas party had attracted what seemed like half the town to a potluck dinner. Two of my exceptional grandchildren were in attendance with their beautiful mommy, and so were many other exceptional grandchildren and their beautiful mommies; Santa had a busy night.
Quick notes from beyond the mountains: Someone has cut down the famous shoe tree east of Fallon, and plenty of people are upset, even outraged.
Venerated by beings insensitive to its humiliation, was the Shoe Tree call felled by an arboreal Kavorkian?
Photo by Max Winthrop
My suspicion is that someone could stand the sight of its magnificent limbs draped with junk no longer and ended the giant cottonwood's life of shame the way Steve McQueen shot his friend to spare him the Death of a Thousand Cuts in "The Sand Pebbles". I think the vandals in this case are the boobs who threw their trash onto the tree and the media herkimers and tourism exploiters who encouraged them. I'd always dreaded that mighty tree might die from the experience, I just never thought it would be a mercy killing . . . Mesquite's classic car show January 14 - 16 features all years, makes and models and classifications of vehicles, with more than 260 trophies and $15,000 in cash and drawing prizes. This show also features "Run What You Brung" street drags, a Roaring Engines competition, the Slow Drags competition, Burn-Out contests, and other vehicular entertainment . . .
In a recent NevadaGram I asked for Nevada Haiku, and received these gems.
Cottonwood leaves fall
Covering the desert floor
Like a fiery snow
It's Nevada history
deep within your veins
Gold cottonwood leaves
Scattered in the autumn wind
Snow flakes and silver shimmer
Salt flats spreading wide
Little school house view of all
July 4 stars bars
Storm clouds drift away
Sunshine, air scented with sage
And then more goddamn rain!
Oh, man, look at this! — it's the new webcam at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely. East Ely, actually, at the original depot that dates back to 1906. You'd swear you're looking through some kind of time-warping looking glass at, say, 1938. Almost as good as being there in person. Oh, but when it comes to being there in person, nothing beats renting the locomotive and driving it: one hand on the throttle (Casey Jones!) easing old #40 out onto the main line.
The 75th Anniversary Edition of Nevada Magazine is on now newsstands. It's a very stylish presentation of the Magazine's transformation from its beginnings as a highway department publication devoted to culverts and other arcana of an infant highway system into the slick, sleek and modern tourism publication of today. I am honored to be included as a contributor; my piece is about America's last stagecoach robbery. It happened in Jarbidge in December 1916, and the perpetrator got out of Nevada State Prison in 1944. Pick up a copy and enjoy.
Despite an announcement by the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs of the possible closure of the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, the railroad operations will not be affected. The state-operated museum consists of just the depot and the freight barn. The remaining 68 buildings and structures on the 56-acre historic railroad complex are operated by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, separately from the state museum system. This complex, including the popular train excursions such as the upcoming Polar Express trains, will continue to operate . . . Dadburn it, nothing in Nevada made it into the New York Times list of "The 41 Places to Go in 2011" . . .
Jim Higgins writes from Primm, "We're looking forward to a big 2011 at Primm Valley. Buffalo Bill's is now
open with all our improvements.
The Edwards Motorcar arrives at its new home in Virginia City.
Top name entertainment, including our new Latin Concert Series sponsored by Budweiser, will highlight a very strong
line-up. Check out the live entertainment calendar at the Star of the Desert Arena (Nevada residents receive 2 for 1 tickets on select upcoming concerts) . . . The Virginia & Truckee Railway in Virginia City has made an unusual and highly picturesque addition to its growing collection of working antiques. This time it's a 1926 Edwards Model-20, built in North Carolina to an innovative design in which the motor is set into the front truck frame instead of being up in the car body.
Overheard during the Crawl Back in Time pre-Christmas festivities at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City: "Of course I love you Crabcakes, how could I stand you otherwise?"