Flowers for Reno

Reno Days, with free music, historical re-enactments, food and beer, is June 1-2 in downtown Reno. A pre-event downtown cleanup is scheduled for 7:30-10:30 a.m. June 1. Bring gloves and meet at the Arlington Street Bridge near Wingfield Park. More info at
Downtown Reno gasping its last? Not so, say downtown businesses. And they’ve ordered 10,000 flowers to prove it. That’s $2,900 worth of annuals, and yes, the city of Reno paid for them, but area merchants will be reimbursing the city.

Geraniums, lobelia, impatiens, pansies, petunias, marigolds and alyssum will be planted in troughs, hanging baskets and planters. There’ll be flowers planted on the railings of 10 N. Virginia St. (aka the Mapes lot), flowers in terra cotta urns at the Parking Gallery. Foliage at Ross Manor, Comstock, Trinity Episcopal, Cal-Neva, Siena Hotel Spa Casino and in front of the Greyhound bus station. Blooming stuff in the middle of the vacant mid-block property (soon to be Silver Peak Brewery’s second location and a pool hall) across from the Riverside 12 Theater.

The 10,000 count doesn’t include flowers placed in the dirt by the parks department staff. They grow their own.

“This is nothing like I anticipated,” says Steve Hardesty, project manager for the Reno Redevelopment Agency. “[Businesses] kept ordering flowers, and I kept feeling like Mickey Mouse with that damn broom.”

Last year, the city put up some hanging baskets with flowers along the Riverwalk. But this is the largest-scale floral beautification effort to date.

Though most of the flowers will be planted by the local business folks downtown, the city is looking for a few good volunteers to help with a city planting, weeding and cleanup event on June 1. That’s the day that the Reno Days festival kicks off with free music, historical re-enactments, food and beer at Wingfield Park.

Volunteers can report to the Arlington Street Bridge over the Truckee River at 7:30 a.m. June 1. Bring your own gloves. Crews will weed and canvass the area shoulder-to-shoulder to pick up any trash they happen upon for just a few hours. At 10:30 a.m., the cleanup will be over, and the Reno Days event will begin.

Hardesty’s excited about the prospect.

“You’re cleaning up for us, and then we’re going to kick into some great music,” he says. “Now, that’s community.”

The Reno Days festival is three years old. And again, in case you’re worried, the city puts $5,000 into advertising for the event, but that’s it. Bringing in bands like Little Charlie & The Nightcats costs plenty, but the city doesn’t charge for the event. So sponsors like Harrah’s, Eldorado, the Reno Blues Society and KOLO-TV Channel 8 are pitching in.

Of course, like Cinco de Mayo and monthly wine walks through the “arts and culture” district, the whole thing is designed to get you downtown. To convince you to take some ownership in the economic matrix of Reno. Because guess what? Even though Reno’s rating as a great place to bring your new tech biz (according to a recent Forbes magazine list) is on the rise, tourism is still paying most of the bills here.

“We want to make our front room presentable to the world,” Hardesty says. “When people come down and see 10,000 flowers everywhere…”

He tells of heading downtown on a Sunday morning after a night of Cinco de Mayo partying. The streets were as clean, he says, as they were on the day the event opened. He asked a city worker, “What did you do—work until midnight?”

In fact, they had.

“I’m pretty proud of my downtown,” Hardesty says.

Now, that’s ownership.