The annual beard contest – longest, fullest, reddest, whitest, best-groomed, blackest, best salt-and-pepper, and scruffiest – during the Nevada Day celebration in Carson City is one of the more popular events of this relatively old-fashioned holiday. The Saturday, Oct. 31, event has no entrance fee, and anybody can participate. And plenty do because there is also a category of best-bearded community.
The beard contest reflects Nevada’s early history, when beards were ubiquitous. The state became a territory in 1861 and fed silver and gold to federal coffers, helping enable the North to win the Civil War. It became a state on Oct. 31, 1864, helping Abraham Lincoln gain his second term as president, even though because John C. Fremont had dropped out of the race by that time, Lincoln didn’t need the help. Nevada also helped pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
Nevada Day itself has been celebrated annually since 1938, except for three years during World War II. A host of events include a big parade (about 200 entries) down Carson Street at 10 a.m., tours of the Governor’s Mansion, rides on the McKeen Car at the Nevada Railroad Museum, and the annual free chili feed at the Carson Nugget, hosted by Nevada’s junior U.S. senator, Republican Dean Heller (noon to 2 p.m. and always packed).
The World Champion Rock Drilling Contest takes place this year at 11 a.m. in the Carson City Nugget parking lot. The contest, which dates to the days when the Comstock Lode was mined, finds contestants attempting to drill the deepest hole in a 4,320-pound block of white granite using only a hammer and a 3/4 -inch bit.
Two of the biggest Halloween parties are at Thunder Valley. V101’s Hip Hop Halloween is Friday, Oct. 30, with Warren G and DJ Quik presiding. (9 p.m.; $59.75) And the Sinners & Saints party is Saturday, Oct. 31, offering up to $5,000 in prizes. (9 p.m.; $25 in advance, $30 at the door; thundervalleyresort.com)
Outings to some holiday season attractions have to be planned ahead, and the Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s annual Polar Express runs are among them. The one-hour round trips run from Carson City to the North Pole, with Santa and other characters on board as families read along with the Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s story, listening to the movie soundtrack and consuming hot chocolate and treats. The rides begin Nov. 19 with runs at 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Dec. 20 (except Thanksgiving), and Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 21-22. ($46 general, $36 children; vtrailway.com)