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Hot August ‘Fights’ Move Indoors
by Harry Spencer
Apr 02, 2011 | 807 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Spanish Springs resident Skip Brayton next to his 1964 Corvette during Hot August Nights in 2010 on Victorian Avenue in Sparks.
Spanish Springs resident Skip Brayton next to his 1964 Corvette during Hot August Nights in 2010 on Victorian Avenue in Sparks.
Several years ago, Reno’s premiere special event, Hot August Nights (HAN), suffered some embarrassment when confrontations broke out at some of its outdoor venues. The publicity was bad and the event seemed in jeopardy until law enforcement finally got a handle on the situation.

Recently, those fights moved indoors to the Reno City Council chambers where there is an ongoing controversy since it was announced last year that the HAN festivities would start an event in Long Beach, Calif.

Relationships between the city of Reno and the CEO and board of HAN got extremely testy several days ago with one councilperson suggesting that Reno start its own classic car event.

Following that, the HAN group called a hasty press conference to reiterate the fact that HAN would remain true to its roots and be held in the northern Nevada area in the future. One change that upset many of the sponsoring hotel-casinos here was that the start of the event, traditionally held the first week of August, would be shifted to the second week of the month. One beneficiary of that change is the Reno-Tahoe PGA golf tournament that will now have a stand-alone date.

Many of the HAN volunteers were also recently upset when it was learned that the T-shirts they pay for to wear as pro bono workers would have some advertising on them this year. That issue is supped to have been resolved.

Hot August Nights has had a long and interesting history in its quarter-century of existence here. As one of its former chief execs, Randy Burke, was quoted as saying, “The first year of any special event is the toughest one to bring off.” He knows from experience since he took over when the embryonic HAN was more than $250,000 in the hole. The late Jim Thompson was a driving force for the committee that worked hard to take the event into the black and on to its subsequent success.

Some previous members of the original HAN board, who no longer are involved, are quick to point out that the production of the event has often been marred by a lot of political infighting and jockeying for positions of power. Despite that, Hot August Nights has developed into the largest special event for the area and is considered the top such presentation in the country. Whether the current wrangling will hurt the event is yet to be seen, but may eventuate this year.

A significant milestone for Nevada occurred a couple of weeks back but did not get much exposure in the local press. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of two important pieces of legislation by the 1931 governor of Nevada, Fred Blazer. One was the establishment of legalized gambling and the other was the six-week divorce law that helped boost the Silver State out of the Great Depression. As former state archivist Guy Rocha is fond of saying, “During the Great Depression, Nevada was the last in and first out. In the current recession, Nevada was the first in and it looks like it will be the last out!”

As for divorce trade in those early days, the late Reno attorney Harry Swanson used to give a stellar account of that phase in Reno history. As a youngster he would accompany his father, also an attorney, to many of the divorce cases that the senior Swanson handled. Eventually Harry himself became one of the top divorce attorneys in the city.

There are very few of the gaming pioneers still around who can comment on what it was like when legalized gambling was in the fledgling stage. However, there are several books regarding those early days that are fascinating to read. Among them are “I Want To Quit Winners” by Harold Smith Sr., “Tap Dancing on Ice” by Jack and William Douglass and “My Father’s Son” by Peter Cladianos. In those early days, gamblers started out mostly with slot machine routes and then moved on to the more lucrative casino games.

From The Hardwood

This afternoon four unlikely and certainly unheralded basketball teams will line up in two games marking the Final Four of this years NCAA basketball championship. The winners will then move on to Monday night’s final game for all the marbles. Those four teams are Butler versus Virginia Commonwealth and Connecticut versus Kentucky. All of the No. 1 seeds this year have been eliminated and the two tiniest schools, Butler and VCU, have proven there is something to the David and Goliath story.

The unusual triumph of the mid-major schools in basketball play has once again cast the spotlight on how the NCAA runs its football championship brackets. Apparently the smaller schools are mostly shut out in the current Bowl Championship Series’ formula. This past season the Western Athletic Conference’s Boise State had a chance to possibly get ion the mix but were quickly knocked down the ladder when Nevada handed them their only loss.

While I favored Arizona originally in this year’s roundball tourney, I have to switch my loyalty to Kentucky, where my high school coach, Joe Gusweiler, was an All-American under the fabled Adolph Rupp.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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