Nevada League of Cities: Americana is found here in Churchill County

The Fallon City Hall was constructed in 1930.

The Fallon City Hall was constructed in 1930.

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What’s red, white and blue with an added color of green?
Churchill County residents who support their country, the Navy … and we can’t forget the iconic Greenwave, a symbol of the wind-blown waves of alfalfa and other crops that cover the Lahontan Valley.
The Nevada League of Cities visits Fallon this week for a retreat, but much has changed in this city since delegates last visited the Oasis of Nevada in 2008 for any type of gathering.
For me, it’s home for this Reno High and University of Nevada, Reno grad and has been since 1986. My family relocated here 36 years ago after spending two years in Panama where I taught media and senior English at a Department of Defense high school and performed my U.S. Army Reserve time with U.S. Southcom.

Steve Ranson

A slice of Americana is found here. In 1990 a friend visited from Las Vegas, and he told me Fallon reminded him of his Midwest home.

Fallon has enjoyed a revival during the past five years recently capped by the newly constructed Rafter 3C Arena at the fairgrounds. This $14 million project will be vital to Fallon’s economic growth for future years.

Already, the 75,000 square foot facility is booked with an event every weekend this month. Indeed, this building makes the Oasis of Nevada shine like a diamond — or for many of us, a sparkling emerald.

Fallon has also been in the news lately courtesy of Hollywood. The latest movie depicting elite TOPGUN fighter pilots and their training appeared on the big screen last week while also showcasing the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center east of Naval Air Station Fallon’s main gate.

As the credits rolled at the end of the latest Tom Cruise movie — Top Gun: Maverick — the pride of living in this community overtook me. I wanted to standup in the theater and shout bravado while clapping my hands over my head.

Such is the diversity and pride of this community.

Steve Ranson/NNG
Fallon’s walking tour showcases both the new with some of the older sites in the city.

The Navy, which first came to the desert as a small auxiliary field during World War II, has developed its aviation warfighting school, a move that evolved out of the Vietnam War by establishing the weapons school at Miramar, now a Marine Corps base, and then relocating the school to Fallon in the mid-1990s.

Underneath the pilots lies some of the richest agricultural land, known for its vegetables, alfalfa hay and melons, specifically the Hearts of Gold cantaloupe that has a major agricultural festival named after it in late August. The festival is a small-town, event with cantaloupe foods and drinks — specifically the world-famous cantaloupe daiquiris and now beer — a farmers market, crafts, fair exhibits and entertainment.

Geothermal plants dot Churchill County, lending this area as one of the top three major producers of geothermal energy in the United States.

As the retired editor and general manager of the Lahontan Valley News, I have grown to love this area and what it offers for both residents and visitors. The area is rich with history and culture.

Heading east, visitors will find our own salt flats along U.S. Highway 50. Sand Mountain, a popular recreation site, is a short 30-minute drive. Other turn-of-the century locations dot the landscape including Middlegate Station, an old pitstop founded in the 1800s along what is now known as the Loneliest Highway in America. National publications have smacked their lips in describing Middlegate’s juicy hamburgers.

Heading 36 miles southwest of Fallon is Fort Churchill, an Army post established in 1860 near the Carson River to provide protection to travelers and settlers and to also have a presence during the Civil War. Nine years later, the Army abandoned the post that provided protection for the settlers traveling through the area.

Like so many residents to our area, we enjoy the number of things to do in the Lahontan Valley. Although many of our visitors stay a few days, I have my own list of afternoon or evening favorites.

• Take a walking tour of Fallon’s downtown area. Maine Street is also a window into Fallon’s past with the historic theater, which celebrated its centennial. Check out the new marque that advertises the most recent movies to birthdays and anniversaries.

I enjoy strolling along Maine Street reading the plaques installed on the historic buildings making them easily identifiable.

Just east of Maine Street is the Overland Hotel, which opened in 1908. This is one of Fallon’s oldest buildings. The bar is a memorable mix of the Old West and local farm lore.
After World War I, the need for a transcontinental highway provided an east-to-west route from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. Three years ago, a convoy of old vehicles and their drivers traveled across Nevada, stopping in Fallon for a few days. On the original trip, a young officer by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower rode in the convoy although historical accounts are sketchy, at best.

• Fallon has one of the best small museums in the West, the Churchill County Museum, at 1050 S. Maine St.
The museum features a variety of displays from pioneer, Native American and early 20th Century eras, among many others. Exhibits change frequently, and at least twice a year, the museum hosts speakers discussing certain aspects about people and events.
Just recently, the museum hosted a month-long speakers’ series on local military authors and their books to coincide with Memorial Day.

• At the end of August is the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival and County Fair, a tribute to one of Churchill County’s top agricultural products. Festival-goers will be able to sample sliced cantaloupe, cantaloupe jams, jellies and ice cream in addition to enjoying those favorite cantaloupe libations.

• My kids loved the city’s parades when they were younger. Fallon presents two parades centered around the holidays, the largest and oldest being the Lions Club Labor Day Parade. The annual Labor Day Parade is a tradition dating back almost 70 years and has long been a highlight to the first Monday in September.
Before the parade is a big pancake breakfast hosted by the Rotary Club of Fallon.
The Fourth of Parade honors the country’s birthday, and many groups show their patriotic pride along the parade route. After the parade is a time of family activities.

• Ring in the spirit of Christmas
 There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit in Churchill County than to attend the city of Fallon’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, held on the first Friday night in December. The evening features the lighting of the city’s Christmas giant tree downtown on South Maine Street and includes a visit by Santa Claus. Fallon’s historic City Hall is also decked out with holiday splendor.

• Speaking of our beautiful City Hall … behind City Hall is a small plaza dedicated to the Global War on Terror and Fallon’s sons and daughters who paid the ultimate price during their military service to our country. The Churchill County Cemetery also has final resting spots for those who fought in the American Civil Wear and the Spanish-American War

• Oats Park is a great venue for picnicking, playing sports and enjoying the open space, but it also becomes an outdoor concert space on certain warm evenings. The Churchill Arts Council sponsors two concerts that are free to the public during the summer, the day before Father’s Day and on the third Saturday of August, which is also the day of at the All-Community reunion where high-school graduates from all classes attend as well as friends of the Greenwave.

During the year, the Oats Park Arts Center hosts a number of musical events in the Barkley Theatre.
The other parks are great for young families and group gatherings. During the fall at one of the parks, tough, I close my eyes and listen to the gentle wind blowing the leaves to the grown.
• Churchill County is in Pony Express country, and several rodeos held during the year attract large crowds. Coming up in June are two rodeos.
One of my favorites, though, is when Fallon hosts a ranch hand rodeo at the fairgrounds in early August.
• Around the valley are two automobile racing venues, Rattlesnake Raceway northeast of Fallon and Top Gun Raceway 15 miles south of Fallon.
• We have a faithful following for Greenwave sports, which have captured numerous regional and state championships during the past 14 years. Many games are broadcast on our local radio station or streamed.
• South of Fallon is Frey Ranch, an estate distillery. The Freys have become masters of their art, and spending time with them and learning about the operations is well worth a glass of spirits.
In Churchill County, I strongly believe the phrase “There’s nothing to do” doesn’t exist.
 For more information on activities and places to visit, check with the city of Fallon, the Chamber of Commerce or museum.
Steve Ranson is the retired editor/general manager of the Lahontan Valley News and a member of the Churchill Entrepreneur Development Association business board.


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