Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 | 2 a.m.
'Home Means Nevada'
Editor’s note: In 1997, the Nevada Legislature approved a bill to put an advisory question on the November 1998 ballot asking voters if Nevada Day should be observed on the Friday of the last weekend in October, as opposed to Oct. 31. The voters were in favor of the change and the new observance began in 1999. Sun Executive Editor Mike O’Callaghan editorialized about why the change was being requested — so more young people can participate and, in the end, have a better understanding of what the holiday is all about.
You and I know the bad habit our nation has acquired, changing important holidays to make certain they fall on a day allowing for a long weekend. The reason for these changes has usually been for money. That’s right, long weekends so people can travel to places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlantic City to spend their money. Good for business, you know.
Next year, Nevadans will have the opportunity to vote on changing Nevada Day from Oct. 31 to the last Friday in October. The refreshing aspect of this requested change is that it has nothing to do with somebody making extra money. It will allow for more high school bands and other participation in the annual parade in Carson City. When the holiday falls in the middle of the week, hundreds of school band members aren’t able to travel to Carson City and join the parade. It also puts a damper on other school and educational activities so common to the Nevada Day celebration.
Maybe, just maybe, Nevada natives like Bill Flangas and Bill “Wildcat” Morris will have some success in Las Vegas joining the celebration. Las Vegans attempted to celebrate Nevada Day a few years ago, but it wasn’t a big success. If they can get it pinned down to the last weekend in October, there should be good reason for North-South high school and college football games to be played on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Probably 80 percent of the new residents of Clark County don’t realize there is such a holiday. If they do, they most likely don’t realize it’s Nevada’s recognition of the day it became a state in 1864.
Let Guy Rocha, Nevada historian and keeper of the Silver State’s archives, give all of us a short refresher course about the history behind Nevada Day. Rocha writes:
“Carson City’s Nevada Day parade and celebration is among the oldest ongoing parade activities held in the Silver State and, with the exception of Hawaii, is the only admission day activity of its kind in the country. Regarding the inaugural parade in 1938, the Daily Appeal claimed the event was ‘Nevada’s largest and best Admission Day celebration in the history of the state.’ Celebrating Nevada Day in Carson City is a time-honored tradition, but the history of commemorating our statehood predates the 1938 parade by more than 60 years.
“The first observances of Nevada’s admission to the Union in 1864 appear to have been initiated on the Comstock by the Pacific Coast Pioneer Society in the 1870s. Journalist Alfred Doten of the Gold Hill News mentions a “grand celebration” in 1873 in his diaries. The Pioneer Society held a sumptuous banquet on Oct. 31, 1889, in honor of Nevada’s 25th anniversary as the 36th state. There may have been other commemorative events outside the Comstock, but the state of Nevada did not officially recognize its birthday until two years later.
“In 1891, Gov. Roswell Colcord signed a bill introduced by Sen. Edward D. Boyle of Virginia City making Oct. 31 a judicial holiday. No court business was to be transacted on ‘Admission Day.’ Both Virginia City and Reno held parades and other festivities. Other towns in the state seemingly failed to formally recognize Nevada’s birthday. No tradition was in the making.
“Between 1891 and 1914, few, if any, communities held annual formal observances of Admission Day. Nevada was still a young state with a highly transient population, which may account for the lack of birthday celebrations. Equally as significant appears to have been the fact that Admission Day was not an official state holiday. Only the courts closed for business on Oct. 31. In October 1908, the recently organized State Federation of Women’s Clubs in Reno passed a resolution calling for a legislative bill to make Admission Day a legal holiday. Sadly, nothing resulted from the initiative. It would take the state Legislature another 31 years to recognize Nevada’s birthday as an official state holiday.”
Although I’ve long bemoaned the changing of holiday dates to match up with a weekend, this change for Nevada Day would certainly be a good move. The change is being requested so more young people can participate and, in the end, have a better understanding of what the holiday is all about. Yes, and a solid background in what Nevada is all about is certainly a good reason to celebrate.
Mike O’Callaghan is a former two-term governor of Nevada and was the executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun.