The National Championship Air Races is an annual event that is held at Stead Field just outside of Reno. It is the largest event in Reno and typically attracts about 100,000 spectators. The races typically occur in mid September. Races of various types of aircraft are intermingled with stunt shows and other aerial demonstrations.
The races are typically held on Thursday through Sunday, with a few days preceding the actual event taken up by trials to see what planes and pilots qualify for the races. Several classifications of aircraft are flown. These include Formula 1 (small single engine experimental aircraft), bi-planes, AT-6 (World War II Era American training airplanes), jets (a relatively new addition to the races), and the Unlimiteds. For each class, there are gold, silver, and bronze races. The fastest planes in each category compete in the respective gold race.
The Unlimiteds are the main attraction. These are single engine piston aircraft that are typically modified World War II fighters. P-51 Mustangs are well represented in these races. Bearcats have also performed well. A variety other types of old warbirds can be seen. A few new experimental designs have been entered into these races as well.
The airplanes race around pylons. There is a straight away right in front of the bleachers. The first pylon is just beyond the spectators area and the planes will turn and head to a loop well away from the audience, but still visible. The planes fly very close to the ground at about fifty feet in the air. The Unlimiteds tend to fly about 400 mph and sometimes exceed 500 mph.
A group of planes flying at 400 mph right past you can be exciting. You can hear the roar of the old radial or inline engines as the planes scream by. Occasionally, someone might blow and engine and smoke will emit from the wounded aircraft as it makes its way back to for an emergency landing.
The stunt performers are often among the best in the business. Their acts occur between the scheduled races to keep near constant action throughout the day. Soloists, precision formation flying, military demonstrations, and wing walkers are among the typical performances.
Air racing is dangerous business and there have, over the years, been fatalities for both racers and stunt performers.
Keep in mind that this event is held out in an exposed airfield in a desert environment. If you go, be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, a good hat, and even a jacket as a wind could pick up especially later in the day. I even attended one day of racing when there was some intermittent rain. The Air Races are an enjoyable event. Be sure to book a room well enough in advance as this is a popular event and the hotels fill up.
In my last visit to Reno, we passed by Harrahs and there was a band playing outside. There's an open area infront of the stage where people can enjoy the music and dance. It's a relaxing and carefree atmosphere...
The Burning Man organization gives special permits to some people to create "Art" cars, buses and vechicles. Many people build them simply to share the enjoyment with others. So make a friend and hop on for the ride. A great way to see the desert!
The Peppermill Casino in Reno offers a promotional game called Peppermillions for comp players. You swipe your card at their kiosk for the opportunity to win a free deck of cards, a free night at the hotel, a boosted bet at the black jack tables, immediate cash to use, or the opportunity to win big at a quarterly drawing! One Sunday I won $500 on the Big Spin drawing when my name was chosen.
From what I can tell, the Peppermill has the best comp program in Reno, offering a variety of bonus opportunities for their faithful customers. But even for visitors the comps will rack up quickly. When I just visited Reno I comped enough for free meals. The day I won $500 a first time player won that much with theit free ticket.
Reno is 'down home' -- very unpretentious. You'd have a hard time determining the folks who have lots of money and the ones who don't from appearances. Not a dressy town.
Also in my opinion, rather limited in terms of cultural pursuits. More of a hiking/fishing type environment.
When it is over 90, afternoons are best spent submerged. My nephew loves the kiddie section at Idlewild Swimming Pool.
Along the river, I found this interesting historical marker. Interesting to note that Reno was known as a divorce center before gaining fame for gambling. Hey... thats what the sign says!