WELCOME TO ARTOWN A Look at Reno’s Favorite Arts Festival
In most of the country, people look forward to July for the fireworks,
barbecues, and pool parties that come with celebrating the Fourth. But in Reno, July is a special month for another reason: It signals the start of our beloved Artown arts festival. If you’re new to Reno and have yet to experience Artown, you’re in for a treat. Since 1996, the month-long festival has brought in local, national, and international artists of all mediums to put on performances, workshops, and exhibits to a 300,000-strong crowd of attendees. My family has been going since the beginning. In fact, 22 years ago, when my oldest daughter was in preschool, she took a class called Teddy Bear Dancers that was taught by Beth Macmillan, who would go on to co-found Artown and who still serves as its executive director. I’ve always been proud to have that connection to the person who built such an impressive, community-focused festival from scratch. This year’s headliners include the Pink Martini mini-orchestra, renowned singer-songwriter Shelea, the Grammy- nominated country group The SteelDrivers, and Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance Company, and more than 100 organizations will collaborate to put on up to 500 events across the city. Music, dance, theater, visual arts, literary arts, and more are explored each year. There are even special activities for kids, and most of the events have little to no admission fees. It’s a good way to expose yourself to artists that you might not otherwise come in contact with.
There’s no doubt that my favorite part of the festival is the summer concert series. There’s a Monday night series at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, which has a really neat amphitheater, great seats, and a fun atmosphere. The festival also puts on concerts at Wingfield Park, which is located right on the Truckee River in downtown Reno. Usually they bring in new artists, but there are also local performers like the local symphony, a local choir called the Sierra High Notes, a youth orchestra, and a youth jazz band. The music is excellent and offers the perfect excuse to have a summer picnic. Even though my daughter has long since grown up, and I doubt Beth could pick me out of a crowd, I still have a soft spot for Artown. More than anything, I think that it shows the kind of magic that can happen when a community comes together to
create a positive event. The festival has become a point of pride for Reno, and people look forward to it every year as a unique way to enjoy time with friends and family. The original goal of the festival was to revitalize downtown Reno, and it has certainly succeeded. Some years, it brings in as much as $16 million for our local economy. Today, Artown’s mission is “to strengthen Reno’s arts industry and enhance our civic identity and national image, thereby creating a climate for the cultural and economic rebirth of our region.” I think it’s been doing a great job so far — hopefully I’ll see you there.
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