I spent a little time at the Nevada State Fair at Mills Park this weekend. I went fairly late on Sunday and it seems like things were winding down and some of the people were packing up to leave, so maybe I didn’t get the full fair experience. But from what I saw this was very different from other State Fairs around the country. But maybe looking back at the rocky history of the fair might put this into perspective.
The state fair had been held in Reno for many decades. But in 2011, with a bad economy and dwindling interest, they decided to stop putting it on. This left Nevada as one of only 2 states without a State Fair. Fast forward to 2014, when the Nevada Sesquicentennial Fair was held in Carson City, at Fuji Park, to celebrate Nevada’s 150th birthday. This was kind of a mini state fair, and was popular enough to be granted a second year in 2015. It was known this time as the “Nevada Fair”. The success of these two fairs jump-started a growing effort to bring the State Fair back, so in 2016 instead of holding the Nevada Fair in Fuji Park, they moved it to Mills Park and officially called it the Nevada State Fair. This is now the third year of the Fair being at Mills Park.
All that being said, this new fair still seems to be having some growing pains. It doesn’t have much of a history or tradition behind it, so it seems a little thin. I went to the California State Fair last summer, and there they not only had a carnival and food but they had livestock judging, they had art and photography and sculpture from all over the state on display, and they had space for each of the counties around the state to show off what makes them unique. The Nevada State Fair I went to this weekend had none of that. There wasn’t much I could see that celebrated the diversity of Nevada and that made you come away with a better sense of the state and its people. Mainly what I saw was a carnival and craft booths. Even the livestock events, which had been present at the Nevada Fair when it was at Fuji Park, didn’t carry over to this fair.
There was one unique facet of this fair, though, that definitely has its roots in an older Carson City tradition. A large part of the fair was dedicated to Civil War reenactments, gunfighter demonstrations, and a mountain man encampment. If you’ve been around Carson City for an appreciable amount of time, you’ll remember those as being holdovers from the Kit Carson Rendezvous. The Rendezvous was a beloved Carson City tradition, which also stopped being put on around the same time the State Fair in Reno stopped. In many ways, this event felt more like the return of the Rendezvous than it felt like a state fair, and that seemed very appropriate given the Rendezvous’ long history in Carson City. The fair was even held on the second week in June, which was always the reserved spot for the Rendezvous. So although I was kind of disappointed in the State Fair itself, I was happy to see that elements of the Rendezvous had been brought back.
This is only the third year of this new fair under the new management, so I can understand them having some growing pains. I think that if they’re dedicated they can work on growing the State Fair each year, bringing in more of the traditional elements that are expected from a fair like this, while also keeping the history of the Rendezvous alive. This could grow into something bigger and more entertaining in future years. I just felt it came up a little short this time. Although next month the Carson City Fair is happening at Fuji Park, which is much more focused on animal and livestock events. So if you’re missing those parts of the State Fair, you can attend that fair to get what you’re missing.
And now, here are a bunch more photos from this year’s fair. And stay tuned later in the week for some nighttime photos of the carnival.