I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.
— Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hey Hey Hey Main Street Gardnerville!

Can you believe that one short week is the first day of fall? Autumn is always such a magical time of year as we watch the greens, pinks, purples and all the colors of spring and summer slowly give way to the fiery tones of fall.  The warm summer days and nights are replaced with the crisp snap of morning air, and lucky for us, immediately into the warmth for the day.  It’s remarkable how beautiful this season is, and nature will always remind us how beautiful transitions can be.  Plus… it’s a transition into some of our favorite seasons and events to come. Bring on the FALL!

Maybe it is impeccable planning, or maybe it is just luck, but whatever the case next week is not just the fall equinox, it is also our second to last Third Thursday Wine Walk of the summer season!  Just like the flowers of summer, this too must end for the year, but not without a proper sendoff first. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t give it the perfect theme for the occasion: “The Leaves are Fallin’ and the Wine is Callin’” Fall Festival theme. We want to make sure the stage is set for the biggest festival we host downtown on October 7th. That’s right, the Annual Fall Festival, and Coffin Races at Heritage Park!  So pick your avatar, are your team Coffin: spooky season, skeleton lovin’, Halloween is in your soul, or are your team Scarecrow: PSL, flannel wearin’ pumpkin lover? Whichever you pick, and it’s okay to be both, we want to see it next Thursday at the Wine Walk!

By now you know my love for the Annual Coffin Races and Fall Festival, and it’s not just because I love a good, friendly competition now and then, it’s because this quirky and unusual event stole my heart from the first day I caught wind of it.  A four-man foot race with a “driver” in a coffin down Slaughterhouse Lane in October???? Hold my Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’M IN!

I was recently contacted by Kassandra with the Nevada Art Council to share the history of the Coffin Races, and it occurred to me, that not everyone may know how this event came to be, so I thought I would share a brief history on the 8th Annual Slaughterhouse Lane Coffin Races.

Slaughterhouse Lane was the road that led to the local slaughterhouse which harvested and processed livestock for ranchers and game for hunters.  Until the late 90’s Heritage Park was known as Gardnerville Park and home to the Little League baseball fields before Lampe Park was built and later home to the girls’ softball Bobby Sox teams until Stodick Park was completed.  Back then, where Chichester development currently is, were agricultural fields as far as the eye can see and hosted a pretty famous event back in the day known as the Annual Cow Pasture Boxing hosted by Sharkey Begovich, Owner of Sharkey’s Casino.

In 2015 one of our beloved volunteers, Shannon Hickey, finding inspiration from the Emma Crawford Coffin Race in Colorado, pitched the idea of hosting a coffin race on Slaughterhouse Lane to MSG, and the rest is history.

That inaugural year, in 2015, we saw 14 coffins compete including the first MSG/Town of Gardnerville coffin concept built by Geoff LaCost, Superintendent of Public Works, named “Bare Bones”. Since then, Coffin builds have come in all varieties. We have had ballet shoes, pirate ships, spinning suspended coffins, and even a SWAT coffin built by Joe Duffy at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, but the two teams who have seen this event from that inaugural race to today is Stor All’s Black Betty and the ECV Clampers who have attended and participated in every race from the start.

We are hitting our 8th year of coffin races which is incredible. In that time this event has evolved and now includes live performances from local bands coordinated by Monique DeHavilland of Moxy Rukus, and our youth performers: All About Dance, Dance Workshop, and Northwest Martial Arts throughout the day.

In 2018 we combined forces with East Fork Gallery which has hosted their annual Scarecrow building for over a decade in the park and the Heritage Park Garden’s harvest festival of activities in the garden, creating the event we have today: kids with face paint, petting zoo, scarecrow building, coffins racing, tarot card reading, photo booths, bounce houses, local artists, Vitalant Blood drive (they ‘vant to suck your blood) MUSIC, live performances and of course food! Everything about it just feels special and exciting.

I feel by far the best part of this event each year is to see all the team’s creative concepts for not only their builds but also their team themes and entrances in the parade of coffins. It’s more than just being the fastest on the footrace, you have to have the crowd behind you, and the opening parade is where you get your fan favorites that cheer you to victory, and of course votes for best costume, overall fan favorite, and overall, fastest.

If you have never attended, you need to add this to your Main Street to-do bucket list and thank us later.

We want to give a big shout-out to our amazing sponsors of this event: Harvest Sponsors: Carson Valley Health and Quick Space; Straw Sponsors: Mary Thomas Real Estate; Trophy Sponsor Jacobs Berry Farm. Thank you for sponsoring this community event and helping to make it so successful. We couldn’t do it without you!

The fun doesn’t stop with the coffin races in October, we have our Paint the Town Pick October coming your way, Carson Valley Art Council Studio Art Tour and a VERY exciting Wind Down Wednesday end of the season planned for you in October as well. Plus our second annual Dia De Los Muertos Festival co-hosted with our dear friends, Douglas County Community Services and Carson Valley Arts Council.  Make sure you attend the September  27th Wind Down Wednesday hosted by Cv Flyte for hints to drop about the season-ender in October and November. You don’t want to miss it!

Don’t forget we have a micro-cycle of Facade Grants available and we are currently accepting applications for this fall cycle. We have a little over $6,300 to award in this 50/50 reimbursable grant. Our awardees of the spring cycle are already underway with their improvements, and we are so excited to see the results. For more info on how to apply click on the link below!

We can’t wait to see you over the next couple of weeks on Main.  Until t/hen, remember to support your local businesses, tip generously, and be kind to each other.

See you on Main Street!

Jen Nalder, Program Director
Main Street Gardnerville

Main Street Gardnerville is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to revitalize downtown Gardnerville utilizing design, organization, promotion & district vitality to develop a unique identity and preserve the historic nature of our community