NevadaGram #178 – Rural RoundUp in Laughlin, Detour to Paris


Rural RoundUp is the annual conclave of Nevada’s tourism industry, Cow County division, a party it throws for itself. The venue rotates; last year in the beautiful Carson Valley in the shadow of the Sierra on the far western side of the state, this year in sunny Laughlin on the Colorado River far to the south.

We always enjoy being in Laughlin, and the long drive to get there is a bonus, because it lets us reacquaint ourselves with the long skinny piece of gristle called US 95 that we take south from Silver Springs. Actually we avoid most of Silver Springs by taking the Ramsey-Weeks cutoff, topping the next rise and passing the entrance to Fort Churchill State Park on the right, and then Buckland Station on the left. If you can spare an hour at either of these historic places you’ll come away improved.

Whitney’s Bookshelf, Tonopah

Our schedule was a little tight because our overnight was in Beatty, a run of more than 300 miles, with a lunch stop in Tonopah along the way (all-you-can-eat pizza buffet plus salad bar at Hometown Pizza) and a visit to Whitney’s Bookshelf, a great bookstore anywhere and a real ornament to Tonopah. The Nevada section alone is worth browsing, but there are treasures galore in the maze of bookshelves.

Death Valley Nut Company, Beatty Nevada
Death Valley Nut Co., Beatty

Beatty for us has been a couple of bags of peanut clusters (dark chocolate) and a tankful of gasoline and overnight at the Atomic Inn. Now add Gema’s Cafe for lattes any time from 7 am to 6 pm. She’s right at the center of town, where the highway takes its right-angled turn — pull in under the Free Parking sign from the long-gone Silver Slipper on the Las Vegas Strip. Parking’s free here too.

Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram

The Mizpah Grand Re-Opening

Surely this is the jewel box that Frank Scott dreamed of.

2011 Grand opening Mizpah Hotel, Tonopah NevadaGovernor Sandoval was present, and Richard Bryan, who served as Nevada frednancy135x160Governor and as US Senator. They spoke glowingly of Fred and Nancy Cline, the Mizpah and old Tonopah to the two hundred or so people gathered outside.

zinglass200x300For all the ceremony, for all the poobahs and potentates who praised the day, for all the people gladly gathered outside the hotel where the governor and the Clines clacked the big ceremonial scissors for the photographers (while master of ceremonies Sandy Harmon sawed through the ribbon with an only slightly sharper pair), lobbydetail200x200it was the crowd surging through the great open doors that brought the old icon back to life.

With no liquor license the Clines couldn’t sell drinks, so they gave them away, and the great room was soon filled with eager babble, dozens of enthusiastic conversations quilted lobbycrowd300x200together in a symphony of sound . . . the Mizpah was alive again!

Read the whole thing here

We noted the toehold of chain restaurants here: there’s a Denny’s in the Stagecoach Casino. The Museum is on the road west to Rhyolite and Death Valley, but it doesn’t open until 10 and we wanted to be right on time for our lunch with Jackie Brett. She is one of our Las Vegas correspondents (we have 3!) and a former colleague from yesteryear, when we worked for what was then the Nevada Commission on Tourism, and is now TravelNevada.

Boulder Dam Hotel lobby, Boulder City Nevada
Boulder Dam Hotel lobby, Boulder City

We continued south to Boulder City and indulged ourselves with three sentimental favorites: a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe — this time Dillinger’s instead of Milo’s — a room at the Boulder Dam Hotel, and dinner at The Bistro on the west side of town.

River walk, Laughlin Nevada
The Laughlin River Walk

We were at Laughlin by 9 am for the preliminaries to Rural RoundUp, and submerged in the experience for the next two days. The last time Rural RoundUp was here was 15 years ago, when the host hotel was Harrah’s. The schedule that year included a tug-of-war on the sandy beach between teams from the north and the south that nearly caused at least one coronary (mine).

Laughlin Nevada and the Colorado River

The 1,907-room Aquarius (formerly the Flamingo and still a pale pink) was the host hotel this time, about midway along the River Walk. There are about 8,000 more rooms elsewhere in Laughlin, more than 50 restaurants, two museums, and a 34-lane bowling center. More than 14,000 casino workers now cross the Colorado by shuttle boat or the Laughlin Bridge each day.

Once upon a time Laughlin seemed primed to surpass Las Vegas as a tourist magnet. Development stalled at the row of casinos that you see today and now Laughlin is like an older, calmer Las Vegas with an older, calmer clientele.

What They’re Saying About Us:

Pinball Hall of Fame, Las VegasHelp Wanted at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas

Meg McDaniel, senior manager of extended destinations (Mesquite, Boulder City, Laughlin and Primm) for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority took pride in showcasing all of the new developments since then to conference participants, she said. “We rolled out the welcome mat to show how Laughlin works together and provides big city amenities with a small town community feel.”

Presentations covered various topics: “Meet Today’s Digital Journalist: YOU!”, “Heritage and Tourism Potential – A Partnership Experience” as well as International Relations, even one devoted to play — “Work is fueled by fear; progress is powered by play.”

They tell me that there was a standing ovation when my name was called as recipient of the Statewide Excellence in Tourism award, but I didn’t notice because it took all my attention to put one foot in front of the other and find my way to the front of the room. Any other lingering recollections from the event were erased a few days later when our plane landed in Paris.

Mary Louise Mackay
Marie Louise Mackay

No, not the one in Texas, the other one. We are visiting son John whose job has plopped him here for a year but we are not on vacation. Instead we are prowling the city searching for traces of Nevada in the City of Light, and finding damned few.

Mackay residence, Taylor and Howard streets, Virginia City Nevada
Mackay residence, Taylor and Howard streets, Virginia City, burned in the Great Fire of 1875

But not none at all. The most important of them, in almost every respect, is the former home of Marie Louise Mackay, whose life would make a great movie: She was the girl from Downieville California who married Dr. Edmund Bryant as a teenager and moved with him and their daughter to Virginia City. Once there her husband became addicted to morphine, abandoned the family and died in California. His widow had been reduced to sewing for the more fortunate ladies of the city until she met and married John Mackay, who eventually became one of the wealthiest men in the world.

9 Rue Tilsitt, Paris
The mansion in Paris a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, now the Belgian embassy

She moved to New York in 1876, intending to join the high society she’d admired since childhood, but when she discovered that no Catholic nouveau riche Irish need apply, she moved to Paris, where no such policy was in effect. Beginning with a welcoming party for ex-president Grant, she made her home at Rue de Tilsitt (which halfway encircles the Arc de Triomphe) into a grand salon until she moved on to London. The building is now the Belgian Embassy.

The Wally’s World Traveling Art Show has arrived at the final stop on its 3-year tour of the state at St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City.

Late Morning, Eureka Nevada
Late Morning, Eureka Nevada, by Ron Arthaud of Tuscarora

The Show first opened in April of 2013 at the Sparks Heritage Museum

Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram

I stayed home. There being no NevadaGram to pull from, here’s a chapter from “Breaks, Brains and Balls”, the Story of Joe Conforte and the Mustang Ranch.

Joe Conforte, US ArmyBook II:

1945 – 1955
The Army Made Me a Lazy Man

It usually surprises even people who knew Joe well to learn that he served three hitches in the Army. He had postponed his draft notice as long as he could while World War II was raging, but eventually, at its end, he was drafted. He served most notably as a military policeman (“not because I liked police work but because I heard it was the easiest work there was”), and he became an American citizen while serving at Fort Riley Kansas.

Read the whole thing here

and will be at St. Mary’s until May 27. Then it will be packed up for the last time and shipped back home to Eureka.

Tonopah Houses by Robert Cole Caples
Tonopah Houses by Robert Cole Caples

It’s not likely to stay there for long. Preparations are being made in Ely for the entire collection — thousands of pieces — to move intact to Ely.

“Thank you to the Nevada Arts Council for putting up with me for the past three years and touring my collection to all the wonderful venues around Nevada,” Wally said at this final opening. “Thanks to the Nevada Humanities for funding the talks for the first couple of years. Thank you also to all the venues who hosted the show. I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity to share my collection with the Nevada that I love.”

Overheard on the Riverwalk in Laughlin: “Don’t think of forgiveness as an occasional act, Gigi, it is a permanent attitude.”

From Beyond the Mountains –

Art Festival of HendersonHenderson is bustling with spring fever! Come on out to the Art Festival of Henderson on May 7th and 8th. Henderson will also host it’s Symphony Orchestra Season Closing Concert on May 13. Across the valley go to Las Vegas for Helldorado Days
Helldorado Days on May 13th through the 15th. On May 7th and 8th go to the Boulder City Spring Jamboree. Not to be missed, in Laughlin is the Cinco de Mayo Festival, Car Show and Dance Party on May 5th through the 8th. Also in Laughlin
is the Baja Days Riverwalk Festival that runs on May 5th trough the 8th. Laughlin’s Rock ‘n’ Ribs Riverwalk Festival is scheduled for May 27th and lasts through the 29th. In Pahrump is the Wild West Extravaganza on May 6th throughCorvette Track Days the 8th. Also in Pahrump watch muscle and mettle of the Corvette Track Days on May 7th through the 9th.

Pahrump also hosts it’s 10th Annual High Desert International Film Festival on May 26th through the 29th. Just north on US-93 takes you to Mesquite Days that is scheduled for May 3rd through the 8th. The Smokin Hot Mesquite Days BBQ Championship is on May 4th and lasts through the 8th. . . On the East side of Nevada off of Highway 50 in Ely is the Silver State Classic Challenge
on May 13th through the 15th. . . On the west side of Nevada, Beatty host’s it’s Beer and Taco Mountain Bike Festival on May 6th and 7th. Also on the west side off of US-95 in Tonopah is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet, Auction and Raffle on May 14th. Be sure not to miss Tonopah’s Jim Butler Days that starts on May 23rd and runs through the 30th. . . Off Highway 50 at the gateway to the Comstock, Dayton’s Historic Preservation Month lasts through the month of May. Just east of Dayton Run What Ya Brung Drag Racesand also off Highway 50, Fallon hosts it’s Spring Wings Festival on May 20th and 21st. . . To the east travel Highway 50 to Eureka for the Run What Ya Brung Drag Races on May 5th through the 7th. Also in Eureka is it’s annual Fiddlers Contest at the Eureka Opera House on My 13th and 14th . . .

Take a Ride on the Loneliest Road

Suggest full screen, sound minimal for this 5½ minute drive from Fallon to Ely.

Way up north go to Jarbidge’s Memorial Day Weekend on May 28th through the 31st. Off Interstate 80 in Battle Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle RallyMountain is the Annual Frank Iturriaga Memorial Race-All cars & Karts on May 6th and 7th. To the west off I-80 in Winnemucca is the Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally on May 27th through the 29th. . . In the heart of the Comstock in Virginia City is a special exhibit of Wally’s World: The Loneliest Art Collection in Nevada that will be at the St. Mary’s Art Center
Through May 27th. The much esteemed Chili on the Comstock event is scheduled for May 14th. Then later in the month ride the Virginia & Truckee for it’s Steam Train Kickoff on May 28th. A new display is up at the Chili on the ComstockSilver City post office as part of the annual statewide Historic Preservation month, showing the cultural shift in Silver City from a mining boom town in the 1800s to an arts and cultural resources production center developing from 1965 to present. . . At the state Capitol in Carson City is the 31st Spring Carnival on May 5th through the 8th at MillsReno Sculpture Fest Park. Also in Carson City on May 14th lend your ears and learn from a master at the Ealtz Festival for String Players. . . In the Biggest little city, come on out to Reno Sculpture Fest on May 6th through the 8th. The water levels are up in the Truckee River for the Reno River Festival on May 7th through the 8th. . . Up at the pristine and glorious Lake Tahoe the Summer Kick Off Car & Bike Show at the Heavenly Village is scheduled for May 27th through the 30th. Spring Commences in the Sierra so break out your bicycleReno River Fest for the Amgen Tour of California Men’s and Women’s Race on May 19th. The Made in Tahoe Festival is on May 28th and 29th at Squaw Alpine Resort and Lake Tahoe’s Official Opening Day party starts on May 28th and last through the 30th.

Parting Shot —

Virginia City Springtime

Virginia City Springtime by Cedar Pavel




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