Northern Nevada special event organizers are betting that by summer, vaccinations and fewer safety mandates will put most folks’ COVID-19 fears in the rear-view mirror.

Many in-person events that were cancelled or forced to switch to virtual presentations last year – including Artown, the Reno Rodeo, summer camps and other activities – are back on schedule for 2021.

The area’s largest summer event, Burning Man, a festival held in the Black Rock Desert that attracts more than 60,000 participants, is cancelled for this year. Updates about the 2022 event can be found by subscribing to the Burning Man Journal and signing up for the Jackrabbit Speaks e-newsletter.

Hot August Nights, an annual celebration of rock music and car culture, pulled to the curb last year, but will roll out again during the first weekend in August at multiple locations throughout Reno and Sparks.

Some gatherings will rely heavily on outdoor events; others will be hybrids of in-person and virtual presentations.

Artown, July 1 to 31

“Right now the registered presenters ratio for live events versus virtual is about 10-to-1 on the live side,” said Oliver X. Artown’s executive director. “We see many senior groups and historical tours with older demographics preferring to remain cautious and opt for virtual events.”

Summer events have to be planned now, he said, even though no one can foresee the trajectory of the pandemic.

Artown’s 2021 main stage festival footprint at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno will host 28 of 31 days of live programming with three dark days, Oliver said. “We are expecting to be able to host a suitable capacity — Covid-19-related protocols notwithstanding — within the socially distanced ‘pods’ at Rancho for all of our live series programming.

“There are some unknowns that we hope will be ‘knowns’ once May comes around and pandemic precautions are set by local governments… Not planning the event now would leave us flat-footed.”

Oliver said that safety will be a major consideration at all venues.

100 years of Reno Rodeo

Organizers said they are committed to holding the Reno Rodeo, set for June 17-26, at full capacity.

Their statement follows Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s recently announced goal of having businesses and venues in every county reopen to 100% capacity by the start of June.

“We remain fully committed to holding a safe rodeo, first and foremost,” said George Combs, general manager of the Reno Rodeo, in a news release. “We have all been hard at work planning for the 2021 rodeo with some uncertainty around social distancing requirements. With these recent developments, we are confident that we can put on a safe event at full capacity while providing fans the exhilarating experience the Reno Rodeo is known for.”

The rodeo arena capacity is a little over 8,600 spectators; 8,100 is considered a sell-out because of limited sight-lines in some seats.  

PHOTO/RENO RODEO: A cowboy competes in the saddle bronc competition at the Reno Rodeo in 2019.

In the coming weeks, Reno Rodeo officials will be formalizing health and safety guidelines for staff, volunteers, competitors and attendees, including any mask mandates that may be in effect. More details about onsite policies and updates will be announced.

The 100-year-old Reno Rodeo is the longest-running, biggest annual professional sports event in the area. It’s nationally televised event and is one of the top five regular-season rodeos in terms of prize money sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The rodeo has an estimated annual economic impact of more than $50 million in Northern Nevada. Tickets may be purchased online at

PHOTO/THE GREAT RENO BALLOON RACE: Balloons rise from Rancho San Rafael Park during the balloon races in 2019.

The river, balloons and BBQs

The Reno River Festival returns on June 12 and 13 with a celebration of all things local. The Truckee River in the heart of downtown Reno is scheduled to host musical performances by Nevada bands and local vendors hawking craft beer, food and handmade crafts. Tickets are available online.

The Street Vibrations Spring Rally is revving up for action June 4 through June 6. The 11th annual event includes live entertainment, Good Vibrations® Slow Bike Races, ride-in shows, poker runs, scavenger hunts, VIP parties and more than 80 vendors.

The 25th annual Great Eldorado, BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival is set for June 11 and 12. The concerts are free at the festival billed as equal parts barbeque block party and microbrew tasting event. More than  50 microbreweries from around the world are scheduled to take part in the event that features two music stages.

The Great Reno Balloon Race is scheduled to take to the skies Sept. 10 through Sept. 12. The event, which features about 100 hot air balloons at Rancho San Rafael Park, is free.

PHOTO/MAY ARBORETUM SOCIETY: The bridge over Evans Creek at the Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden at Rancho San Rafael Park.

Lavender, trees and plein air

Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden at Rancho San Rafael Park will host the May Arboretum Society’s annual Artist Stroll and Wet Paint Sale on Sunday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at the arboretum, 1595 North Sierra Street in Reno.

Lavender in bloom.

The society invites residents to stroll through the gardens and groves of the arboretum and botanical garden while many of the region’s artists set up their easels and paint en plein air, capturing the essence of the flora and fauna that call the arboretum home.

The event is free. The artists’ morning work will be displayed beneath the canopy of the arboretum’s Kleiner Oak Grove at 12:30 p.m. and will be available for sale. Proceeds support the artists and the work of the society. Masks or face coverings are required.

The May Arboretum Society’s 7th Annual Lavender Day is slated for July 10 at the Labyrinth Garden. The event includes lavender plants for sale, demonstrations on harvesting, infusing, and cooking with lavender and other mini-presentations under the Red Tent throughout the morning.

Local vendors include artists offering jewelry, mosaics and garden art, fairy garden accessories, and more. Lavender Day is free and scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

PHOTOS/GIRLS ROCK RENO: Scenes from previous Girls Rock Reno Summer Camps.

Girls rock at camp

Last year, the popular Girls Rock Reno summer camp was a virtual event limited to 10 digital campers making music online. This year, the rockers will be collaborating in person again from July 19 to July 23, with performances scheduled on July 24.

Campers, ages 9 to 16, will learn an instrument, form a band, write a song, and play it at the showcase at the end of the week. In addition to jamming with their fellow campers, the kid rockers will see lunchtime performances by local and touring musicians and have the opportunity to explore different workshops that include screen-printing, music history and more.

The camp, a part of the Holland Project, welcomes all self-identified girls, trans and non-binary youth to participate. No music experience is required.

Participation is limited to 16 campers. Applications are open at, with financial aid  and scholarships available. Residents are invited to donate to the scholarship fund, sponsor a camper, or otherwise get involved in the summer program.

PHOTO/RENO STREET FOOD: Customers line up at a Food Truck Friday event in 2019.

Food trucks return

Food Truck Friday is returning to Idlewild Park beginning in June. Organizers said they expect about 4,000 people each day, starting on Friday, June 4.

Food Truck Friday organizers put out a call on Facebook for food and dessert vendors, with applications available until April 30. Those who want to apply may send an email with contact information to

Other festivals, events, summer camps and performances are being planned for the (hoped-for) post-pandemic season. We’ll be keeping up with those as they are announced.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated April 27 to include the announcement of Burning Man's cancellation.

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