Meet Virginia City's Goodwill Ambassadors

There's no mistaking them when you see 'em.

He's the older grizzly-looking guy with the long beard and flowing hair reminiscent of the American prospector of a century and a half ago. She's the younger one, much younger, just 5 years old with four tapered legs and a body that's turned many a head on the streets of Virginia City.

He's Sweetwater John Buie and she's Miss Mary Virginia, and together they are the Goodwill Ambassadors of Virginia City.

This will be Sweetwater John's 15th season greeting the many visitors to Virginia City, but his first year with Mary Virginia by his side.

John's previous partner, Virginia, died in November from medical complications.

"When Virginia died I was undecided whether I wanted to find a new burro and continue," said Sweatwater John. "Virginia was exceptional, she was smart and knew the routine better than me."

While Buie was deciding what to do, fate intervened, and earlier this year Mary Virginia was presented to him by the animal rescue folks from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Named in part for the one that went before her, Mary Virginia has been a big hit. In March the duo played at Gene Autry's Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Ranch management liked them so much they were asked if they would return every year for the event, all expenses paid.

In previous years Buie and Virginia traveled frequently around the country promoting Virginia City. Their expenses were picked up by the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority, but lately that money has all but dried up.

"It looks like we'll be staying close to home this year," he said. "That will give me some time to help Sandie at the store."

Sandie Radford is John's significant other. Together they own and operate Sweetwater John's Inc. at 145 South C Street. The gift shop specializes in ladies' items, dolls and various gifts.

Sweetwater John and Mary Virginia can be seen daily on C street in Virginia City usually between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., sometimes later if Mary Virginia has a mind to.

The team also hires out for special events, parades and all manner of occasions within the law.

You can contact them at: Virginia City Chamber of Commerce 847-0311 or the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority 847-7500.


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