Casino Entertainment

Reno balloon race is full of hot air

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race

It’s a ridiculous time to start a show: 5:15 in the morning. Yet one of Reno’s largest gets underway precisely at that time Saturday and Sunday. Furthermore, the event will be attended by thousands – residents who set alarm clocks, tourists who ordered wake-up calls – all gathering at Rancho San Rafael Park for the Glow Show, an array of lighted hot-air balloons, many of which will ascend at 5:30 a.m.

The Great Reno Balloon Race is one of the largest in the world and the Sierra sky is the perfect venue for it. Of course, the pilots are in it primarily for the prizes, but the spectators, for the most part, could not care less about who wins. They just want to gawk, and there will be plenty of reasons to do that this year.

Traditional tear-drop shaped hot-air balloons will be represented in large numbers, but most visitors will be attracted to the “special shapes.” This year that group includes “Aaron,” an Elvis Presley balloon; and “Yoda” which will inflate next to the perennially popular “Darth Vader.” Also new this year: “Norman the Dragon,” a replica of the Liberty Bell and “Walkin’ on Air,” which boasts a pair of flip-flops emblazoned its side.

The main “mass ascension” takes places at 6:45 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12-13, weather and wind permitting. (

Plenty of music

Casino entertainment is so abundant this weekend it’s difficult to believe Labor Day has come and gone.

Paul Rodgers plays Thunder Valley on Friday, Sept. 11. The former lead singer of Bad Company and Free has seen much-anticipated re-releases this year of two of his best albums – the eponymous “Bad Company” from 1974 and “Straight Shooter” from 1975. Both were re-cut from the original tapes at Rodgers’ insistence and include some hitherto unreleased tracks. John Kay and Steppenwolf join Rodgers for this show. (7 p.m.; $39.75-$159.75;

On Saturday, Sept. 12, Thunder Valley hosts a “Block Party” with Kool and the Gang (“Celebrate,” “Get Down on It”), Stephanie Mills, the original Dorothy from “The Wiz” (“Never Knew Love Like This Before”), and Ready for the World (“Oh Sheila”) (6 p.m.; $43.75-$139.75).

Cache Creek will set up a dance floor to accommodate those who cannot resist the superior Tex-Mex music by Little Joe Y La Familia on Friday, Sept. 11. (9 p.m.; $35-$55;

Local boy Kory Gibbs, a ninth grader who has performed all over Amador and Sacramento counties, brings his Thundering Blues Band to Jackson Rancheria on Saturday, Sept. 12. (7 p.m.; $5;

Also at Jackson Rancheria: Lynyrd Skynyrd began in Jacksonville, Fla., more than 40 years ago, and they remain one of the country’s premiere Southern Rock bands. Their live performances are invariably raucous and joyous. (8 p.m. Sept. 17; $65-$95)