Reno in September: Ribs, Balloons and Airplanes
By Burt Carey
If Burning Man wasn’t the thing to attract you to northern Nevada, then perhaps the Great Reno Balloon Race is more your style. Or eating barbecue. Or watching airplanes race. Take your pick, as they’re all happening near Reno this month.
More than 125,000 spectators from around the world come to Reno each September to see wildly colored hot-air balloons glow in the cool air during the Friday Super Glow Show and then see those colors during the day splashed against unforgettable desert backgrounds. September 11-13 marks the 34th annual Great Reno Balloon Race.
Upwards of 100 hot-air balloons are signed up to take flight in the world’s largest free hot-air balloon festival.
The balloon race and festival has become a major economic driver for this northern Nevada community, and unlike the pagan Burning Man festival, this one is geared for family fun. It’s supported by a host of volunteers who work with city and state tourism officials and local businesses to draw some of the most spectacular hot-air balloons in North America and abroad.
This year’s event includes a pilot from Belgium who will thrill Star Wars fans by flying Darth Vader and Master Yoda balloons.
The race is held each year just a few miles north of Reno from Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, where early morning spectators are entertained with a Glow Show, Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension, a kids interactive area and shopping on Balloon Boulevard.
Finding a place to stay in Reno is not a problem at all. The following hotels are major and founding sponsors of the GRBR, and offer competitive room rates: Peppermill Hotel/Casino – (800) 282-2444; Silver Legacy Resort Casino – (800) 687-8733; Sands Regency Casino (pet friendly) – (800) 648-3553; Harrah’s Reno (pet friendly) – (800) 427-7247; Circus Circus – (866) 447-7728; Grand Sierra Resort (pet friendly) -1-800-501-2651; and Whitney Peak Hotel – (775) 398-5400. For more information on lodging, including RV parks, visit http://www.visitrenotahoe.com/reno-tahoe/accommodations.
If you get to Reno a few days early, you’ll want to check out the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off. It’s billed as America’s biggest and best free rib festival. And with a half-million visitors who come each year, neither billing is in question.
The 27th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off began Sept. 2 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 7. It’s held at Victorian Square in Sparks, Nev., on Victorian Avenue between 14th Street and Pyramid Way.
Stay beyond the GRBR and you’ll be greeted by other visitors from the sky Sept. 16-20 when the city opens its doors to the Reno National Championship Air Races and Air Show.
The National Championship Air Races is the last event of its kind, carrying on the tradition of the Cleveland Air Races of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. In 1964, Bill Stead organized the first air race near Reno, and more than 50 years later it is still going strong in the northern Nevada desert. The event has been interrupted only once: following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., in September 2001, when all aircraft in the United States were grounded.
Held every September just north of Reno, the National Championship Air Races have become an institution for northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. For one week, the high desert north of Reno becomes home to hundreds of aircraft, their pilots and crews. In the past 10 years, the event has attracted more than 150,000 spectators and generated more than $66.5 million a year for the region’s economy. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations.
For tickets and more information, go to http://airrace.org/.
Image: 2014 Great Reno Balloon Race