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Annual Reno car show a potential boon to Valley

by Scott Neuffer
sneuffer@recordcourier.com

Hundreds of sleek classic cars cruising by Minden Park on Thursday morning may produce more than mere spectacle.

Organizers of the annual luncheon for the Hot August Nights Poker Run, scheduled for 10 a.m., are hoping the event draws much-needed tourism dollars into the flat local economy.

“As the visitors authority, we hope there’s a little bit of immediate impact when participants stop here, in that we encourage them to take some time and visit the shops and restaurants within a few blocks,” said Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Chernock. “Our overall goal is to make the participants, most of whom are West Coast-based, actually stop here, look around and experience the town so that they come back in the future to visit and participate in our smaller car shows, or just come back here to have a vacation.”

According to the Hot August Nights Web site, more than 800,000 people come to the Reno-Tahoe area for the week-long jamboree of American nostalgia and classic automobiles. This summer, Aug. 1-8, marks the 24th year of the event.

“The general feeling is that Hot August Nights positively impacts visitor numbers pretty much from Topaz all the way up the Highway 395 corridor,” Chernock said. “It’s believed to be an event with a really big economic footprint.”

The challenge of outlying areas, Chernock said, is figuring out how to get a piece of the boon.

“What we are experiencing in the Valley now is what most destination areas are experiencing,” he said. “The number of visitors has stayed relatively constant, but they’re spending less: less per person per visit.”

Chernock said Hot August Nights participants look forward to the Minden stop.

“It’s a really good way to introduce ourselves to customers who are driving $50,000 cars,” he said. “It also gives people here a chance to hang around the park, get a good look at the cars and talk to the drivers without having to go to Reno and deal with the immense crowds.”

The chamber is expecting more than 800 cars to visit Minden Park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The 110-mile poker run begins at Summit Racing in Reno, stops at Atlantis Casino, continues through Carson City to Minden Park and then parades over Kingsbury Grade to South Lake Tahoe before returning to Summit Racing.

Participants receive randomly drawn poker cards at each stop. The person with the best hand wins $3,000 for first place, $1,750 for second place and $1,000 for third place.

The Town of Minden is co-sponsoring the event with the chamber, and the Valley Cruisers Car Club is handling parking and card distribution.

The Lions Club is barbecuing hamburgers, Lira’s Market is featuring barbecued tri-tip, Barone & Reed Food Company is having Creole shrimp tacos, and Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant is offering a lunch special plus their full menu.

Bill McClain’s Mobile Music is providing music from the Carson Valley Inn stage, and Minden’s Lone Tree Frame & Gallery and Tumblewind Antiques are offering specials for participants.

“Anything that comes to Minden is good for business,” said Tumblewind owner Roxanne Stangle.

Last year, Stangle said, she had 11 customers who returned to downtown Minden days after the poker run.

“These events are what retail businesses down here depend on,” she said. “These are the things that help people find us.”

For more information, call 782-8144 or visit http://www.visitcarsonvalley.org.