Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and I have a suggestion for Northwestern Nevada males desiring to make a special impression on their wives or girlfriends.
In addition to presenting your ladies with flowers on the holiday, which falls on Wednesday, Feb. 14, consider taking them to Lovelock to join in the fun at the annual Love-Locks Festival and hot air balloon races.
The four-day event, which begins on Valentine’s Day, is headquartered at the appropriately-named Lovers Lock Plaza located in a shady park adjacent to the downtown 100-year-old Pershing County Courthouse, the only round courthouse in the United States.
It is here at the plaza that the traveler comes upon countless padlocks which, over the years, have been attached to row upon row of chains suspended from metal posts. The locks, many of them heart-shaped, symbolize lovers’ devotion to one another. The festival, which has been a tradition since 2006, has its roots in similar observances that developed in ancient China, Taiwan and Korea.
I recently visited Lovelock, and have learned from Lisa Booth, its city clerk for the past 13 years, that the display of padlocks is now world famous, attracting Nevadans as well as U.S. and foreign visitors who flock there to observe the multi-lock extravaganza.
Many visitors bring their own locks, attaching them to the chains to signify their affection for soulmates, family members or friends. Others purchase specially-made locks in the shape of hearts from local stores which provide tools to etch names or initials of one’s lover on the locks.
The Love-Locks also have been sprouting at many other cities around the world, such as London, Budapest, Berlin, Moscow, Brooklyn, Paris and even in the former Yugoslavian republic of Serbia, which is now an independent nation.
In the Serbian resort city of Vrnjacka Banja, locals tell the story of Nada, a young schoolteacher, whose soldier sweetheart left for the front during World War I. Alas, he fell in love with a beautiful Greek woman along the way and eventually married her. Upon hearing this, Nada died of a broken heart.
Young women in Vrnjacka Banja, fearing a similar fate, began fastening locks bearing their and their lovers’ names on the city’s Ljubavi Bridge, where Nada and her fickle boyfriend used to meet. Today, the bridge swarms with as many locks found on some bridges in Paris. In Paris, however, so many locks have been hung from chains spanning the Seine River that they are being removed because of fears their weight may cause them to topple into the river upon boatloads of tourists.
In Lovelock, however, there are no such fears. The long chains holding the padlocks in Love-Lock Plaza are firmly bolted to the ground.
I used to know Lovelock fairly well. In the early 1980s, I purchased the weekly Lovelock Review-Miner, the only newspaper in Pershing County, from a woman who was relocating to the town of Paradise in Northern California. But about two-and-a-half years later, she apparently decided that Paradise was no paradise, returned to Lovelock, asked to buy the newspaper back from me, and I obliged. The paper is now owned by the firm that publishes the Winnemucca and Battle Mountain newspapers.
A pleasant little desert oasis of about 2,000 population, Lovelock was founded along the Central Pacific Railroad route in the late 1860s by a Welshman named George Lovelock (1824-1907), an early Nevada homesteader and storekeeper. The old railroad station, which is no longer in use, was moved downtown several years ago and now serves as a community and visitor center.
While in Lovelock, I suggest Valentine’s Day visitors stop by the Temptations café and store, where great food (particularly extra-tasty ice cream) await them. Heart-shaped padlocks also are sold at Temptations and engraved there with your lover’s name or initials and then taken to Love-Lock Plaza across the street (a two-minute walk) and attached forever and ever to one of the chains. Temptations, along with City Clerk Lisa Booth, has information about the Feb. 14-18 celebrations that also include the “Lovers Aloft” hot air balloon races held at McDougal Sports Complex on Airport Road near the landing strip off Interstate 80.
While in Lovelock for the Valentine’s Day celebrations, some of you will be pleased to learn that there also are opportunities to renew your wedding vows at the courthouse and from several local ministers.
Love is in the air in Lovelock, to be sure!
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.