Mel Shields: Ribs sizzle, sternwheelers smoke in Sierras over Labor Day

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 2:42 pm

The ribs are sizzling near Reno, the boilers are being stoked on Tahoe’s sternwheelers, and Civil War uniforms are being donned in Virginia City.

It must be Labor Day weekend.

By far the biggest event of the weekend is John Ascuaga’s Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, already underway in Sparks. It annually draws 500,000 visitors who last year managed to consume 233,400 pounds of ribs.

This year, the food is being prepared by 24 ’cue experts from across the country. The cook-off is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (and until 5 p.m. Monday), but the most popular time is when headliners of the free concerts take the stage at 7 p.m. The Fabulous Thunderbirds are set for tonight, with Mark Chesnutt on Saturday and Bad Company on Sunday. Commander Cody and His Modern-Day Airmen kick off their show 3 p.m. Monday. (

There’s plenty of boom and bang in Virginia City this weekend with the annual Civil War Days. Battles are scheduled to take place on the Virginia and Truckee Railroad at 11:20 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 11:20 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday ($22). There’s a special Champagne Battle Train on Sunday at 6 p.m. ($25). (

The 21st Annual Great Lake Tahoe Sternwheeler Race takes place 10 a.m. Saturday along the South Shore, pitting the Tahoe Queen against the MS Dixie II in a 4-mile competition. (

Valley casinos

Thunder Valley serves up some great entertainment this week, starting tonight with Frampton’s Guitar Circus, featuring Peter Frampton, B.B. King and Richard Thompson.

It’s been decades since Frampton burst on the scene with “Frampton Comes Alive.” There were some roller coaster years that followed, but he’s since established himself as one of the country’s premier guitarists and a charming presence in person.

B.B. King, one of the country’s top blues guitar player, has also come a long way since his ’70s and ’80s performances in Harrah’s cabarets where he was a continual presence. Of course, prices to see him are considerably more now than they were in those days, when admission was a $5 minimum, which included two drinks. (7 p.m.; $44.50, $54.50, $67.50, $83.50, $97.50;

Also at Thunder Valley; Sammy Hagar takes a break from his usual Tahoe engagements for a Thursday concert with Rival Sons (Michael Anthony, Denny Camassi, Bill Church, and Dave Meniketti). (7 p.m.; $39.50, $49.50, $67.50, $83.50, $97.50)

Finally, at Harrah’s Tahoe, there’s welcome resurrection of the Mavericks after an 8-year absence – the band is touring in support of their new album “In Time.” They play Saturday. (7:30 p.m.; $46.20;

Read more articles by Mel Shields

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