In 19 years of this annual celebration of an American era, its cars and music has grown far beyond what was envisioned back then.
In 1986 the Show 'n Shine could be easily contained within Rancho San Rafael Park, the parade drew a crowd, but nothing like what we've just seen. The final numbers aren't in, but this year's event was expected to draw 800,000 visitors over the course of the week, and it isn't likely that number will be adjusted down.
Hot August Nights has become the premier special event in a town that has increasingly come to rely on special events. Now, in a way, it's a victim of its own success. All those cars and those drawn to them add up to a big strain on local resources, particularly on police manpower and particularly in downtown Reno.
Don Schimd, the Executive Director of Hot August Nights, says the event has been unable to expand to meet those growing costs. Registration has been limited to 5,000 cars, and here there's good news and bad: the day after this year's event next year is already full with a waiting list of 1,600. That's the good news: letting those other cars in would raise more money and attract more sponsors.
Now the bad news: it's hard to imagine the event getting any bigger. Hotel rooms within 100 miles are just about sold out during Hot August Nights, and official venues are also full. No decisions have been made, but it will be topic number one at the organization's retreat this fall.
The problem of rooms is hard to solve, and with hotels like the Golden Phoenix looking to convert to condos it isn't getting any easier. Schmid notes there are plans for a new smaller hotel casino south of town and he says many unregistered participants show up now with cars and are obviously finding some sort of lodging with friends or family.
No decisions have been made, but making Reno's biggest special event a little bigger will be topic number one at the organization's retreat this fall.