The annual event also attracts vendors from across the West Coast, selling everything from jewelry and handmade crafts to kitschy signs, clothing and even novelty desserts.
But like other small businesses, the current economic climate has rained uncertainty on the vendor market.
“This year is worse than last,” said Bob Calvert, owner of Reno-based RJ Calvert Company, a custom framing and sports memorabilia business.
Calvert has set up shop at Hot August Nights (HAN) for about the last seven years, and he has seen the gamut of economic fortunes since that time.
Calvert closed a brick-and-mortar store a few years ago when the recession first hit, though he maintains a warehouse to store his goods.
But it is special events such as HAN and the Nugget Rib Cook-Off that now generate business for Calvert, who travels to a dozen or more events annually between Reno and the San Francisco Bay area.
Despite the economic downturn, Calvert said his business fares well because of the clientele he has built during four decades in the industry.
“The autograph business is about honor, trust …” he said.
Calvert also benefits from giving back to the community.
For example, he sponsors charity auctions for schools, selling signed pictures of football, baseball, basketball and other sports legends.
The first few days of HAN have been slow for Calvert, but he expects business to pick up over the weekend.
“It’s mostly locals the first three days,” he said. Then the out-of-towners start rolling in.
For Kelly Albiani, HAN is a can’t-miss event.
“I’d say it’s right up there with the better ones,” he said.
Albiani, a Fallon resident, sells handmade pottery at about 26 events and shows annually, which he has done for several years.
“I consider myself a crafter,” he said, adding that while his art is a labor of love, he also keeps practical interests in mind.
That’s why Albiani’s pottery generally serves a useful function, such as a mug, bowl or utensil holder.
Albiani relies on repeat customers for about 90 percent of his business. But that hasn’t made him complacent.
Despite his selling success, Albiani knows the economy is troubled.
“It’s definitely come down,” he said of sales at HAN.
Staying on top, therefore, means staying fresh.
“In a lot of ways (success) depends on my product,” Albiani said.
In recent months, he has begun adding new colors to his pottery, and the change appears to be paying off.
“That’s what I like most about it,” said Eileen Barlage, a Salt Lake City resident in town for HAN, referring to the unique color design on pottery she purchased from Albiani Wednesday afternoon.
Albiani cloaked the pottery in bubble wrap and sent Barlage merrily on her way.
“You can still do well,” he said with a smile.