School of block

In its second year, Reno Block Party makes a bid to become part of Reno’s busy summer schedule of community events

The crowd gathers at the 2011 Reno Block Party at Wingfield Park.

The crowd gathers at the 2011 Reno Block Party at Wingfield Park.

Reno Block Party, which takes place downtown at Wingfield Park, 300 W. First St., on Saturday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit

There’s something about summertime in Reno. A light shines on the city that tears away the rough edges of this normally gritty municipality. Everything is crisp and vibrant. The air is clean; the waters purifying. During the winter, we’re shut in while deathly soot rains down and cloaks this city with a sticky residue. The trees disrobe and malnourish. The skies tear up. The vivacity of the city dwindles. But, every summer the spirit of this city is reborn. This city becomes restitute, and the public convenes along the banks of the Reno Ganges to mutually wash away the darkness of winter in its baptismal waters.

Let New York have its solemn autumns. Summer belongs to us.

During no other season is the sense of community in Reno more evident. It usually begins around Earth Day. Suddenly, humanity abounds. People take out their bikes. They hang out by the river. Music fills the air.

Part of it is the natural beauty of this city, which inspires us to get out of our caves and face the elements. But part of it is also all the cool shit going on. From Riverfest to Artown to the Tour De Nez, it seems there’s always something to do in the summer months that involves us congregating en masse downtown, sitting over blankets, and sipping on refreshing libations. And, most people can agree that we live in a city where any excuse to celebrate is more than welcome.

Party people

So, it’s only natural that new events should pop up to meet that demand, which is precisely what Reno Block Party, which takes place downtown at Wingfield Park on Saturday, June 30, has done. This event, though still nascent, is already growing in its second year. As Anastacia Sullivan, the spokesperson for Reno Block Party, says, the event is “growing and spreading.”

In its first year, billed mainly as a musical event, Reno Block Party attracted, according to Sullivan, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 people, but the organizers hope that this year that number will exponentially expand.

According to Sullivan, because of a focus not only on music but also on art, they hope to attract more people.

“Last year it was testing the waters, and there was a lot of music and it was a lot of fun,” she says. “And it was a surprise of how big a success it was. So this year so much has been added. I think the huge art component is really what’s different about this year.

The creator and main producer of Reno Block Party, Charles Doyle of Glitter Dome, is heavily involved in Burning Man, and just as that event mixes celebration with arts and music, the idea is to do much the same with this event.

“Charles [Doyle] says that Reno is a gateway to Burning Man,” says Sullivan.

Last year’s event organizers include Kahele Dunn, Kristine Boyer, Michael La Prairie, Jess Blaze Smith and Charles Doyle.

And, though the Reno Block Party is an event that stands on its own, its producers hope to keep much of the spirit of Burning Man, especially its emphasis on art and community, alive in Reno Block Party.

A part of the new emphasis for this year’s event is that artists of all stripes, and not just musicians, will have an opportunity to showcase their work. Apart from the vendors that normally accompany these outdoor events, they are planning on creating a whole section devoted solely to giving local artists an opportunity to reach a diverse audience that might not normally have the opportunity to experience their creative endeavors.

“One whole side of the island [at Wingfield Park] is going to be an artist village,” says Sullivan “It will feature all kinds of artists from painters to sculptors to performance artists.”

The organizers of the event have invited local businesses, nonprofits and crafts dealers to set up booths to show members of the community some interesting and diverse things going on within the community.

But, the organizers also hope that they can educate the community on the fact that there are exciting things taking place within the art scene here in Reno that are contributing to the growing culture that exists outside of the gambling, touristy idea that many outsiders have about Reno.

“What this event, and a lot of new events going on here, are trying to get rid of the idea that Reno is all about gambling, and the little guy next to Vegas, and that we have some of the biggest arts festivals coming out of here,” says Sullivan. “You know, Reno has some of the most interesting artists and musicians, and we want to be seen as a cultural center. And, one of the things that we want is for people outside of Reno to see that.”

But the goal of any block party is to bring the community together, and Sullivan feels that’s precisely what’s going on at Reno Block Party—not simply represented by the constituents that it hopes to bring together, but also with the organizers of different events that have become regular staples to life in Reno.

Sullivan, who also helps organize the Earth Day event, also sees this as a sort of prelude to the month-long Artown celebration.

“It’s a good pick-up for Artown,” she says. “I don’t think that everyone thought of that when they were planning the date. But, this year Artown starts the day after, and they will be there with a booth.”

She sees this as positive and encouraging trend in Reno.

“The community is starting to realize that you’re more successful as an artist if you’re reaching out,” she says. “And now Reno is more integrated, symbiotic—an everyone helping each other out sort of place.”

Though there is a new focus on art, the event still showcases a wide variety of local and out of town musical talent. There will be two stages: the main pavilion at Wingfield, which will have 17 acts from local fixtures like the Deadly Gallows to Los Pistoleros from London, England, as well as a stage built by Osiris Burners, an Egyptian-themed stage making its debut here before going to Burning Man, that will host 11 DJs.

Like any good all-day event, Reno Block Party will have two official after-parties starting at 9 p.m., one at Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor, and one at the Knitting Factory, where DJs from the Osiris stage will be spinning.

The organizers hope that Reno Block Party will become a regular annual event here—one of those summertime fixtures that remind us how truly wonderful life can get here in our strange little city at the feet of the Sierra. And, it seems perfectly fitting, though perhaps coincidental, that the god Osiris should play so prominently in the visual aesthetic of the event. For he is not only lord of the underworld, but the representation of rebirth—a perfect idol to watch over the renaissance of not only the season, but of our community’s cultural offerings.