Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 | 2:20 p.m.
Rob Robinson stood outside the Attorney General’s office under an awning, as smoke billowed from a nearby barbecue. In front of him, on Carson Avenue, the annual Nevada Day parade moved by, with bands, horses and floats. Crowds three to four people deep lined the tree-lined street.
“We only have one parade a year,” the Nevada native said, “and when we do, it’s a big affair.”
Thousands of people lined the street, stretching out more than a mile. There were tailgate parties all along the way, much like a football game, with people setting up a few hours before the 10 a.m. parade.
This is the way the state capital celebrates Nevada Day, the anniversary of statehood. This year we’re 149. Just imagine next year’s parade.
This type of thing may seem odd in Southern Nevada, where the day amounts to a three-day weekend for school children and state employees. But in Carson City, Nevada Day is a real holiday with a series of events that include not just the parade but a run, a chili feed, a rock drilling contest, a beard growing contest and a powwow.
Jasee Vokes of Sparks came to the parade with her husband, Kevin, and 4-year-old son, Jaysen. They came to see a family friend who was in the parade.
“It’s fantastic,” Jasee Vokes said.
The family moved from Texas just before Jaysen was born, and this was their first parade. They came to watch a family friend in it.
“Everything is bigger in Texas, except now for Nevada,” Jasee Vokes said with a wide smile.
The parade had 200 entries and after two hours, only about half the entries had completed it.
There were dozens of police cars from Reno, Sparks, Carson City, the Nevada Highway Patrol and several other counties, and there was plenty of cheers. Gov. Brian Sandoval rode down Carson Avenue on a military personnel carrier. Sen. Dean Heller and his family rode down Carson Avenue on horses. Several other politicians walked or rode. The crowds cheered even them.
Several Native American dance groups rode down the parade route, singing and dancing in colorful costumes. There were dozens of groups with horses, several in their cowboy best, one in long, glittering Arabian robes. The cowboys and Indians all got along.
There were also plenty of military units and Junior ROTC groups marching and marching bands from Carson City, Reno and White Pine County, among other places. Several pageant queens, including Miss Nevada, Miss Rodeo Nevada and Ms. Senior USA, rode by. Lots more cheering and a few whistles.
And several floats were decorated in historic Nevada scenes, including dozens of people in Old West costumes, Civil War soldiers and, thanks to a women’s history project, participants dressed as women’s suffrage activists.
The grand marshal, Mike Shaughnessy, walked in the first Nevada Day parade in 1938. He was 3 years old, dressed as a little Daniel Boone. He since has served as the parade chairman and chairman of the Nevada Day Committee and is now chairman emeritus.
Mae Wachtel of Simi Valley, Calif., came to the parade with her 8-year-old son, Austyan. They came to Carson City to visit a friend and watched the parade with amazement. There’s nothing quite like this where they’re from.
“It’s nice to see everyone get together out here,” she said. “It’s a good experience for my son. He hasn’t seen anything like this.”
Before the parade, people packed the Governor’s Mansion for the now-traditional pancake breakfast, served up by the Republican Women’s Club of Carson City. Republican politicians and longtime residents mingle every year. Plates are served for $6, and important people were servers. Heller wore an apron, as did Regent Ron Knecht. Republican candidates for lieutenant governor Mark Hutchison and Sue Lowden served too, and also shook more than a few voters’ hands.
Sandoval walked through the room with a coffee pot, wearing a bright white shirt with the state sesquicentennial logo on it. He pulled out a silver coin — 1 troy ounce — that was struck yesterday, commemorating the state’s 150th anniversary next year. He plans to flip the coin at the UNLV-UNR game in Reno this afternoon.
Trevor Hayes, a Las Vegas attorney, was the only one in the room wearing a red UNLV shirt. A UNLV alumnus, he was in UNR territory, surrounded by people in dark blue Wolf Pack shirts. He poked the UNLV logo on his chest and said: “I keep telling people the ‘N’ stands for Nevada.”
So yes, there was a bit of partisanship — collegiate and political — as Carson City celebrated the 149th Nevada Day on Saturday, but mostly the day was celebrated with a bunch of syrup and a lot of cheering, and that made it a good day.