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Parade of rural pride
by John Smith
Aug 28, 2010 | 1160 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Imagine what some of the long-haul truckers and cross-country vacationers were thinking on the morning on Aug. 21 when the friendly folks from Esmeralda County rerouted traffic off U.S. Highway 95 and down a side street on the edge of Goldfield.

Traffic accident? Highway construction?

Nothing so tame.

It was the annual Goldfield Days parade, and it was almost time to make way for the queen.

Now, it’s not the flashiest or longest parade you’ll ever see, but it traveled in style through the middle of the town located about 180 miles north of Las Vegas. Locals and some tourists line the street and, by the time the parade started, the H&H Barbecue and Teriyaki Bowl stands were preparing to open for business.

The local fire and ambulance volunteers participated along with some county office-seekers. There were a couple clowns on mini-bikes and some serious guys on vintage motorcycles. Two children led a brace of burros down the street like a pair of budding Jim Butlers.

Add a couple stock cars, and an antique tractor and Model T provided by businessman and rural Nevada aficionado Jim Marsh, and you’re beginning to get the idea.

Ladies in antebellum gowns competed for attention with gals gussied up in dancehall dresses.

Every few minutes the sound of gunfire was heard. Shootouts were provided by a Western gunfighters group from Nye County, and not a drop of blood was spilled. By my count, there were more shots fired during the 30-minute parade than in the history of the Old West.

Small Nevada towns have more parades than Russia under Stalin, and daughter Amelia and I travel to as many as we can. It’s always a good time. While they’ll never make you forget that gathering in Pasadena, they’ll remind you that even our tiniest outposts have abundant community spirit. You just have to pull off the road long enough to appreciate it.

Ruth Ann Benoist wouldn’t miss it. She wore her red cowgirl hat and tended a table of memorabilia outside the Barbarossa and Bear store, which has the distinction of offering customers classic motorcycles and mining equipment as well as food supplies for the survivalist in the family. Benoist lives in Las Vegas, but her heart is in Goldfield, where her daughter and son-in-law run the store.

“It’s just a real friendly town,” she says. “No one I talked to has anything bad to say about it.”

Members of the local Montezuma Lodge held a pancake breakfast at the volunteer fire station to raise funds for their annual scholarship. The group also donates bicycles to area children.

In a world brimming with politics, the path leading to the best future is rarely clear. But on Saturday morning the pancakes were tasty and the conversation is full of warmth and optimism.

For us, the highlight of the morning was meeting the Queen of the Goldfield Days Parade, Ida Peter. She wore her purple sash with pride. At 89, this wasn’t Ida’s first accolade. The retired Culinary Union cook, who once prepared meals for the mysterious folks at Area 51 on the Nevada Test Site, had previously been honored as Miss Senior Goldfield.

“We didn’t have to wear a swimsuit, fortunately,” she says, eyes twinkling.

Flanked by daughters Frances Hammond and Margaret Smith, Peter visited with passersby and tried to describe how good it felt to be the queen. Her daughters helped her with just the right word.

“It’s exhilarating, that’s it,” she says, smiling.

For my money, Ida represented the town in fine fashion.

Soon enough the parade ended and the highway was reopened. The party moved to the courthouse for the annual land auction. Proceeds augment the county coffers and have encouraged community development.

Once folks stop in rural Nevada, who can blame them for wanting to stay?

John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com.
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