Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Bird's-Eye View of the Reno Air Races

The 49th annual Reno Air Races attracts fans and participants from around the globe.

Story & photos by Eric Cachinero

Pure-pumping adrenaline coupled with incredible horsepower perfectly complemented the heart-pounding vessels traveling near the speed of sound. Although inaudible over the screaming engines of the T-6s, the crowd’s cheers act as a catalyst to these beautiful machines, pumping them faster and faster as they roar around the next pylon.

I attended the 49th annual Reno Air Races on Friday, September 14 at Reno-Stead Airport. Every year, the five-day event draws thousands of national and international spectators to be humbled by this one-of-a-kind spectacle. From daredevil aerobatics performed by David Martin and his Breitling CAP-232, to the neck-and-neck air battles engaged by the Formula Ones, the event has something for all plane enthusiasts.

As pilots warmed their engines in the mid-morning heat and spectators began to find their bearings amongst the crowded grandstands and aircraft pits, a familiar tune rang over the crackling arena speakers. As I removed my hat and squinted toward the sky, the first view of our magnificent stars and stripes being waved in front of the crowd by parachute came into view. I watched on as parachutist and double-amputee Dana Bowman eloquently guided down the flag. The subsequent scream of the F-15s signaled that the welcoming ceremony was a success.

Continuing my way through the pits, I met with Reno pilot David Hults, who guided me through the different classes of aircraft and explained the rules of the races. In a small, ornamented hangar, Hults proudly displayed a plane he occasionally pilots, the 8KCAB Super Decathlon, or as he describes it, “the plane the old-school guys learned to fly on.” Like most pilots who attend this event, Hults is fascinated with the races and admires their unique nature. “It’s one of the only events of its kind,” Hults said. “It pulls people from all over the place.”

As Hults and I neared the next hangar, a yellow biplane with giant batwings painted on the underside came into view. Appropriately named “The Batplane,” the Pitts S-1S gleamed as it awaited its big moment in the races. Owner and racing pilot Casey Erickson has been flying for 20 years and said the 900-pound Batplane is just perfect for her. “I’ve never flown anything as difficult,” she said. “And I absolutely love it.” Erickson owns a flight school in Southern California and never misses a chance to make the annual trek to Reno.

In the distance appeared an icon which I found myself drawn to like a moth to a flame: a tower that prides itself as the symbol that officially greets pilots and participants alike, the air traffic control tower. Militantly painted on each side of this familiar tower are the words “Welcome to Reno Stead Airport Ele. 5,046.”

As a member of the media, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to climb the tower, which offered truly the best seat in the house. I made my way up the seven-story stairwell of the tower and reached the top deck just in time to hear the starting announcement for one of the greatest displays of the day.

With an ear-piercing thunder, The Patriots Jet Team took to the sky in a brilliant display of skill and precision matched with an equally impressive display of color. I watched on as six L-39 jets danced in an aerobatic display that had the crowds on their feet. Impressing both the seasoned pilots with their razor-close passes and families with their vivid trails of red, white, and blue smoke, the Patriots truly earned their place as “the Premier Civilian Owned Jet Aerobatic Team.”

The high-octane, need-for-speed mentality that lives in every single pilot will undoubtedly continue to shine through here for years to come. As Erickson so beautifully sums it up, “When the flag drops, it's full throttle; it's game on.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

92nd Annual Candy Dance Arts & Craft Faire

If you’ve never been to Genoa's annual Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire, prepare to be amazed. What seems like every square inch of open space in this little Sierra Nevada foothills town fills with vendor booths offering unique and eclectic handmade gifts. Held on the last full weekend of September every year, it often jump starts holiday shopping for residents and visitors alike.

The event will take place Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30 this year and is the longest standing event not only in Nevada but throughout the nation. More than 300 booths will sell handmade arts and crafts, entertainment will be provided both days, and almost 40 food and activity booths for the kids make this a very family-friendly event.

Be on the lookout for red & white polka dot aprons at the Eastern Star Bake Sale booth, which will be located on the front porch of the Masonic Lodge at the southwest corner of Genoa Lane and Foothill Road. 100% of their proceeds will benefit Nevada Military Support Alliance, which helps wounded soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers in Nevada.

Admission is free, and parking is available for just $5 per vehicle in designated lots at Foothill Road south of Genoa, Genoa Lane east of Genoa, and Jacks Valley Road north of Genoa. Free shuttles run throughout the day to and from the fair. Free parking will be available at Douglas High School and the Carson Valley Inn in Minden. Shuttle service to and from Genoa will be available at these locations for $2 per person (round trip) running during fair hours on both Saturday and Sunday.
For additional information and more on the history of this event, visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Valley Road Field Day

UNR event highlights local produce and advances in biotechnology.

Story & photos by Eric Cachinero

While traveling the streets near Reno's Valley Road, morning commuters and residents alike might not expect to see much more than an aging neighborhood, coupled with the occasional trumpet of the Union Pacific chugging in the distance. However, hidden amid the district are fertile fields that contain everything from an experimental vineyard and winery to some of the latest and most innovative advances in biotechnology.

The University of Nevada, Reno's College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources and Cooperative Extension invited hundreds of local residents, farmers, and agricultural enthusiasts Saturday, September 8 to celebrate the annual Valley Road Field Day. The event took place at the 48-acre Agricultural Experimentation Station and featured everything from samples of fresh local produce to wine-tasting events spotlighting some of the program’s 12 varieties of wine made from grapes that are astonishingly grown right off of Interstate 80.

Sitting behind an immaculate array of fresh heirloom tomatoes, savory grapes, and the sweetest honey I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting, was Nikki Boyze of the River School Farm. Partnering with the College of Agriculture, the River School Farm provides local community space that includes everything from outdoor yoga classes to a large variety of locally grown organic produce. “It’s important to represent local food and local farms,” Boyze said. “It just makes sense.”

As I licked the last taste of honey from my lips, the announcement that the first tour of the day was beginning rang over the facility’s PA system. An enthusiastic crowd gathered as the biofuels and algae ponds tour got underway. 

John Cushman, project leader for a biotechnology program that aims to develop algae as a practical renewable resource, explained the process of growing algae in one of the facility’s many greenhouses. Cushman explained how he hopes to eventually grow algae on municipal wastewater and turn it into an alternate fuel source. The project is gaining speed, and Cushman believes rising gas prices could speed the algae’s consideration as a practical alternative to gasoline.

The event appealed as much to children as veteran farmers. Hay wagon rides and various agricultural puzzle games kept youngsters occupied while their parents kept busy eyes on the research posters that lined the fence.

Living with Fire, a local organization that educates the public on ways to reduce the risk of wildfire, played a major role in making the day fun for children. Their construction of a miniature house gave children a chance to throw ping-pong balls—representing embers—at the structure in order to educate them on the danger areas of a home during a wildfire. 

Tucked neatly among the greenhouses and algae ponds was the real reason the field day has increased in popularity: the vineyard, home to 12 varieties of grapes, which its students manage to ensure a productive and flavorful harvest. Also on site is the department’s winery, where the grapes are pressed, put into fermentation containers, and bottled and labeled. Grant Cramer, lead researcher, has shown that a wine/grape industry would be a viable economic development project for Nevada.

Soon enough, the heat of day set in, and as the event began to wind down and the wine began to ignite people’s appetites, a lunch of tri-tip, chili, and biscuits was served. The meal was provided by the college's Wolf Pack Meats.

As I grabbed one more slice of mouth-watering orange tomato for the road, I glanced toward the tractor transporting children around the vineyard and knew that the necessity for this event was vital. Our production of produce and advancement of biotechnology is absolutely essential to our community, and without Valley Road Field Day, most of these problems and advances might fall on deaf ears.