It’s the most wonderful time of the year

July is my favorite month of the year. The weather is balmy. Lake Tahoe is cool on my feet. Break out the plastic glasses and low-backed lawn chairs, ladies and germs, Artown is back! There is an endless bounty of events both free and paid that can keep aficionados busy from dawn to dusk, every day in July, and I’m perfectly OK with that.

My friends tend to think of me as somewhat of a curmudgeon, and for the majority of the year they are correct. However, most of them know better than to answer a text from me during the month of July, for it most certainly means I have my heart set on a ukulele concert, an African interpretive dance workshop, or I wanna throw back a few Red Roadsters at Silver Peak before the high-octane awesomeness that is Controlled Burn.

Fridays are a particular treat, opening with the summer staple Rollin’ on the River, which is proudly sponsored by the Reno News & Review. Started in 1996 as a local concert series, Rollin’ on the River has grown into one of Reno’s most highly-anticipated free summer music events. Rollin’ on the River features both local and regional touring artists who bring Wingfield Park to life every Friday in July.

The lineup this year is lots of fun. The opening night headliner was a Heart tribute band called Hearts Alive. Hey, they may not have looked the part, but with my eyes closed I was almost transported back to my ’80s childhood, singing along to “What About Love” while sitting in the back seat of my parent’s massive blue Lincoln. The other tribute bands lined up also promise to be lots of kitschy fun with acts like the Unauthorized Rolling Stones and Garratt Wilkin and the Parrotheads. Outside alcohol isn’t allowed at these events, so unless there’s a Margarita stand somewhere, I’m afraid you’re going to have to be wasted away again in Waterbottleville. Oh well. It’s worth it. In a nod to the local music scene, each show opens with a local band.

All Rollin’ on the River concerts are free to the public. Wingfield Park is at the corner of West First Street and Arlington Avenue in downtown Reno. Public parking is available. Rollin’ on the River starts at 5:30 p.m. every Friday in July. These concerts receive no funding from Artown or the city of Reno, but are solely supported by the RN&R and its partners.

Make sure to bring enough nosh to get you through the entire night, because after the concert begins the week’s Artown events, with a movie in the park. The series this year opened with The Wizard of Oz followed by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The movie selection this week is West Side Story, and next week features a very young Jake Gyllenhaal in one of my personal favorites, October Sky. An inspiring tale of a boy and his love for the stars, this one never fails to put a smile on my face. If you’ve ever wanted to build a model rocket with your son, then this movie is for you.

Not all the Artown events are free, but most are. Pink Martini, a longtime favorite of mine, brought their jazzy notes to Reno for the 4th, India Arie is coming to town July 19, ($25, $35) and I find myself intrigued by the upcoming Stephen Petronio’s Underland, an edgy, adults only show playing at the Grand Sierra on July 30 ($30-$50).

Artown offers something for everyone, and I suggest you check it out. It’s too easy to stay home and watch TV, rather than push yourself out of your comfort zone. This is a month when Reno really shines, and we should all take advantage. Download the iPhone app, add the events to your calendar, and immerse yourself in one of Reno’s greatest treasures. For more information, visit