Handing them the keys is a good place to start.
That is what will happen to 14-year-old Chris Villalvazo of Reno one day. His father, retired IBM utility operator Carlos Garcia, has been tinkering with cars for more than 35 years and will one day make his son the proud owner of a fully restored 1955 Chevy Bel Air. For more than a decade, Garcia has been instilling his young son and daughter — they are twins — with a love of classic American cars and music, both at home in their garage and at Hot August Nights. On Sunday, the young man’s future wheels were on display at the Bonanza Casino for the kickoff show-n-shine for this year’s event.
“I remember seeing lots of cars,” Chris said when recalling his earliest memory of going to Hot August Nights with his dad. “Tons of cars.”
There will likely be tons more cars on display at this year’s Hot August Nights event as the limit on the number of registered vehicles has been lifted. Executive Director Tony Marini said that as long as a vehicle is 1972 or older its owner can register it for the 2012 Hot August Nights.Traditionally, the registration limit was at about 5,000 though that number had been going up in recent years as the waiting list grew longer and longer.
“This area doesn’t need to be turning away business,” Marini said Sunday.
Three years ago, Hot August Nights officials added a kickoff event in Lake Tahoe in the days leading up to the main weeklong event in the Truckee Meadows. Marini said this year’s Tahoe event, which concluded Sunday, drew about 500 registered participants and he expects about 85 percent of those to drive down the hill to participate in Reno and Sparks this week.
Bonanza General Manager Ryan Sheltra said his business has benefited greatly from hosting the Hot August Nights’ kickoff for the last three years, though not directly from the event itself. Since Bonanza doesn’t have a hotel, Sheltra said he is more interested in planting Bonanza firmly in the minds of the 500 or so Hot August Nights volunteers so they’ll come back and gamble and eat at Bonanza the rest of the year. Though he wishes he could have days like Sunday all year long, he simply doesn’t have that much parking.
“We definitely see Hot August Nights T-shirts come through here year-round,” Sheltra said, indicating that it pays off in the end to fork out the money for extra staff, a big barbecue, the Hot August Nights sponsorship fee and other expenses to host the kickoff event.
This year, Bonanza will host the return of the “Gravity Drags” on Thursday and Friday. This event will be the silent version of the drag races that will take place at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. For the Gravity Drags from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., cars will park at the top of a hill near Bonanza, turn off the engine and the emergency brake and let the Earth’s pull do the work.
Marini said this and other unique events are part of the effort to keep people from age 5 to 85 interested in Hot August Nights.
“We will continue to reinvent ourselves,” Marini said. “We will give everyone an opportunity to have a variety of things to attend while at the event.”
The roar of the engines, however, is what keeps most car lovers of all ages coming back.
“It’s fun to see when I’m riding in a regular car and I see a hot rod drive by,” 14-year-old Chris Villalvazo said. “I like to roll down the window and hear it and see the style and color of it.”