When Hot August Nights was born 34 years ago, nearly all the participants who brought their classic rides to Reno actually remembered the 50s, 60s and 70s – the decades when those cars were new.
By the late 1990s, organizers began to worry that once those nostalgic folks stopped coming to the annual festival, the event would fade away like an Elvis poster exposed to the desert sun. That hasn’t happened, said Heather Libretti, spokeswoman for the event.
“Our registrations haven’t dropped at all,” she said. “We’re still on track for 5,500 to 6,000 cars this year. We’ve been hearing that prediction for 20 years, but we’re not seeing that… When someone passes down their cars, the family members continue the tradition.”
A younger demographic
The age range of those who register their cars for the event is between 25 and 60, organizers said, but a breakdown of that range wasn’t immediately available. Anecdotally, organizers, participants and venders reported that the average age of the hundreds of thousands of people who come to the event also has skewed younger over the last decade.
In 2018, the owner of Adams Polish, a long-time vendor at the festival, told an interviewer that “the demographic is so much different now than it was 10 years ago — it’s younger. So instead of 60 and 70 year olds, now I’m seeing 30 and 40 year olds coming in my tent and buying the product.”
This year, there’s a lot to see and experience. The festival kickoff is scheduled in Virginia City, July 30 and 31 and then continues to roll with events throughout Reno and Sparks Aug. 3 through Aug. 8.
Chubby Checker; Commodores; and The Guess Who
Free concerts are offered nightly. Headliners include Peter Noone’s Herman Hermits, The Guess Who, the Commodores and Chubby Checker, as well as bands who cover classic rock tunes, including Beatlemania, Surfin the Beach Boys Tribute and Long Time, a tribute to the band Boston.
“Our entertainers are here to get our attendees’ toes tapping and to get them swaying to the sounds of yesterday, while admiring the shinning classics, many from the same era,” said Alan Tom, executive director for Hot August Nights. “Each year, we match our music lineup with the vehicles to provide the fun and lighthearted experience our attendees come to expect.”
In Virginia City last weekend, revelers heard classics from the 1950s and 1960s played by Lady and The Tramps, a local band. A show-n-shine, a poker walk, and nightly cruises around the historic mining town also are featured.
The main 2021 event in Reno-Sparks continues through Sunday, Aug. 8, with entertainment nightly. The performances, listed below, are free and scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m.
Here’s a look at the highlights:
Wednesday, Aug. 4: The Australian Bee Gees, a tribute to the Bee Gees, performs at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino outdoor stage; The Stars of Beatlemania, singing hits from The Beatles, performs at the Nugget Event Center.
Thursday, Aug. 5: Peter Noone’s Herman’s Hermits takes to the Grand Sierra’s outdoor stage and Hollywood Stones Tribute performs at the Nugget Event Center
Friday, Aug. 6: The Guess Who perform at Grand Sierra and Surfin the Beach Boys Tribute takes the stage at the Nugget Events Center.
Saturday, Aug. 7: Commodores are scheduled at the Grand Sierra’s outdoor stage and Chubby Checker performs at the Nugget Event Center.
Rockin’ at the Atlantis
The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa has been a Hot August Nights headquarters for decades.
Registered Hot August Nights car participants will have the opportunity to compete in the legendary Cruise of Champions™ for a chance to win a share of $25,000. Cash prizes and trophies will be awarded nightly for Best of Show, Judge’s Choice, Best Restored Original, Best Special Interest, Best Street Rod and Best Street Cruiser.
This year’s live entertainment includes Rolling Stone tribute band Satisfaction, Hot Rod Rebellion and Atomika. All three bands will perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting at 5 p.m. each night. The Atlantis’ Hot August Nights Celebration also will feature daily Acres of Champions Show-n-Shines, eating contests and a Cruisin’ Craft Fair.
Atlantis’ full entertainment and events schedule, including promotional offers during the festival, can be found online.
In addition to the entertainment and the show-n-shines, the festival also features controlled cruises, drag races, contests and an auction. The full itinerary is available online. HAN’s social media posts are available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Adequate parking is an issue at many HAN events. The organizers suggested that fans arrive early to find spots, or avoid the issue by using ride shares or public transit.