Beth Macmillan, the executive director of Artown, noted in a June appearance before the Good Old Days (GOD) club, “Think of July having 32 days this year as we will run through Aug.1. Because Artown is known for expanding boundaries, we are expanding this year’s July by one more day. Our closing night will feature the Funk Brothers, who are the music behind Motown’s greatest hits.”
Macmillan herself is a product of the arts world, her medium being dance. She first arrived here in 1983 to become a cast member of the long-running “Hello Hollywood Hello” show, which was the opening booking for the MGM Reno, now the Grand Sierra Resort.
Following her showbiz career, she ran her own dance studio known as The Teddy Bear Dancers. It was pointed out at the Good Old Days club talk that Bob Caroll, GOD founder, left the Teddy Bear group at one point and it was never the same.
Macmillan joined Artown in 2001 as festival manager and was subsequently promoted to executive director in November 2003. Macmillan had many accomplishments prior to Artown. She managed a production company, was the founder, owner and director of a small, highly successful arts education business, was the executive director of a major dance organization as well as a business owner and distributor.
During her GOD appearance, she presented a PowerPoint of Artown highlights and then gave a stirring account of how the annual celebration has progressed and expanded over the past 14 years. She pointed out that for the 2009 celebration, Artown had expanded to more than 400 events, of which 60 percent are free. She also noted, “I think Artown came along at just the right time, because when it first started most locals had an antipathy to attending anything in downtown Reno. I like to think our event started the return to downtown, which now boasts one of our more popular venues in the Wingfield Park setting.
“Highlight events feature award-winning musicians and artists along with distinctive performances. Artown’s opening night pays homage to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock with a performance by Richie Havens, the artist who opened the historical festival in 1969. The World Music Series brings another year of variety, with the return of Mariachi Sol de Mexico and performances by Salsa Celtica, Lura and the Wailing Souls, Chris Botti, Ottmar Liebert and noted bluegrass musician Rhonda Vincent and the Rage bring their individual style of music to the performance lineup. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet showcases its contemporary interpretations for the first time in Reno.”
Macmillan also said, “With our diverse and immense schedule of activities, be sure and check www.renoisartown.com frequently for a comprehensive daily calendar with details on performances and events and the ability to purchase tickets for our phenomenal ticketed productions. We’re also bringing back our beloved Little Book of Artown, a must-have guide for festival attendees.”
A high-energy individual, Macmillan thrives on the hectic fast pace of the full-month Artown production, but also has time for other Artown activities that occur post-season. This year, those events include October’s presentation of the Chieftains, November’s presentation of Pilobolus and the booking of premier violinist Itzhak Perlman in January.
Reno Rodeo wrap-up
Following last week’s column re: this year’s Reno Rodeo and its parking woes, it was interesting to note that in a subsequent issue of the Reno Gazette-Journal there was a squib about a story from Reno’s past. It concerned the fact that in 1979, the Reno Rodeo directors and the board of the Nevada State Fair went on record noting that the fairgrounds was no longer of adequate size to continue to support the rodeo and the fair. Insufficient parking was listed as one of the main reasons for trying to find a larger site for the facility. Nonetheless, the 2009 version of the Reno Rodeo is said to have broken all attendance records.
Publicizing the rodeos of the past reached its peak one year when the cattle for the rodeo were being shipped into town by rail. The train inadvertently stopped at the Reno train station and a number of head of the four-footed variety escaped and ran down Virginia Street. By sheer coincidence, there happened to be about a dozen mounted rodeo directors strategically positioned on Virginia Street to herd them up and prevent any destruction of property or injury to curious onlookers.
You probably couldn’t get away with such a stunt today.
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: Harry Spencer’s column is sometimes a mix of reporting and opinion. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.