It has always been and still is about the cars. Hot August Nights in Reno celebrates its 30th year, and three decades ago even the most optimistic event organizers never dreamed it would be as big as it has become or lasted as long as it has.
Initially, it was to be an event based firmly in nostalgia, giving participants a chance to cruise the streets of Reno in their classic automobiles, primarily those from the 1950s. Toss in a few concerts and a few special events and you have a party.
The party is now a full nine days long and classic car enthusiasts and families plan annual vacations around the event. It kicks off in Virginia City, where it will take place through Saturday, moving to Reno on Sunday, July 31.
The car events are plentiful, topped by show ’n’ shines in practically every casino parking lot. Where to see the best of them is hardly in dispute. That would be downtown Reno, where 50 of the world’s top restored and modified cars compete for a prize purse of over $100,000 to be awarded by judges Steve Mank, co-host of Spike TV’s “MuscleCar”; Reggie Tibbetts of the car show “SuperNationals;” and Eddie Potestio of Eddie’s Rods.
In addition are the very popular drag races and burnouts on a 1/16-mile track at the Nugget in Sparks; the new AutoCross & Drifting at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Center; and the live bidding at the Motorsport Auction at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, highlighted this year by a one-of-a-kind Futurliner No. 3 Power of the Air Age.
Free entertainment is highlighted by the Aug. 4 Herman’s Hermits concert with Peter Noone (8:15 p.m.; Grand Sierra parking lot), Aug. 5 America concert (8:15 p.m.; Grand Sierra), the Aug. 6 The Monkees’ 50th Anniversary Tour (8:15 p.m.; Grand Sierra), and also on Aug. 6 Abbacadabra (8:15 p.m.; Victorian Square in Sparks).
It is likely that many younger people today will have to be told what a sock hop is but it is probably just easier to take them to one next Wednesday, Aug. 3, at Circus Circus ($5).
On Aug. 7, it all comes to a close with the annual parade at 10 a.m. down Reno’s Virginia Street. (hotaugustnights.net)
In keeping with the spirit of the event, Silver Legacy will host “The 60th Anniversary Tour” of a singer who defined a generation, Johnny Mathis. Mathis has a close relationship with Reno, competing in a track meet at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1956 where he set the stadium’s high jump record of 6 feet, 5 1/2 inches. He was then asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic team but decided to pursue a singing career instead. Good choice. (8 p.m.; $69.50-$89.50; silverlegacy.com)