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PHOTOS: Tonopah festival tops 1,000 attendees

It was about as busy as it gets in Tonopah this past weekend, with the 51st Annual Jim Butler Days celebration taking over the town and drawing in all sorts of tourists for three days jam-packed with activities. It was so busy, in fact, that every single room and RV slip there was booked. Jim Butler Committee members estimated there were more than 1,000 attendees this year.

The festivities kicked off on Sunday, May 22 with the coronation of the king and queen of Jim Butler Days, at which Jim and Judy Anderson were crowned. The following evening, a talent show took over the Tonopah Convention Center, giving a stage for the area’s many talented residents to show off their skills. But it was the weekend that things really got started at Jim Butler Days, which opened at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 27 and continued on until Sunday night.

At the downtown events plaza, there was live music all day long on Friday with local performers as well as out-of-towners. The events plaza also played host to stein holding contests, frozen T-shirt contests and a bartenders’ race, along with the Tonopah High School Multi Class Reunion. Those with a desire to wet their whistle were able to take part in whiskey tasting at the Tonopah Liquor Co. Miniature golf was on offer next door to the VFW Post #1103. Vendors were situated just off Main Street as well, giving patrons plenty of delicious bits to devour and lots of items to browse.

“We had 21 outdoor vendors show up and sell or promote,” Jim Butler Days Committee member Cameron Murrin detailed. “Most were happy and offered to come back next year.”

The theme of this year’s Jim Butler Days was “Celebrating Our Serbian Heritage” and there was a very special dinner held just for the families of those long-ago area settlers.

“The Serbian Dinner on Friday evening was a huge success, with about 160 descendants of our earliest families coming from all over Nevada. I was touched by the laughter, happy tears and general ‘family reunion’ spirit that filled the Elks Lodge. Nye County employee William Stark spent many, many hours compiling a Serbian cookbook that he filled with donated family recipes and photos, and these were a very popular keepsake,” Jim Butler Days Committee Member Joni Eastley detailed.

Saturday, May 28 was undoubtedly the most bustling day for the festival, with much of the same elements as Friday’s festivities but with many more added. A Mucker’s Pancake Breakfast started the day off and the Jim Butler Days Parade, a big source of attraction for attendees, followed.

Main Street was swarming with people as the Jim Butler Days Parade prepared to start its procession, with hundreds upon hundreds of people lining the roadway. Coming ready for the loot that was to be scattered in abundance were many excited children, their parents smiling indulgently as they raced out to collect the candy, ice pops, flying rings and more that were tossed with delight by parade participants.

There were approximately 58 entries in this year’s parade and garnering bragging rights for their entries were:

  • 1st Place – Hassana
  • 2nd Place – Sweet Poppy
  • 3rd Place – Dowers Family Farms
  • 4th Place – Raleys
  • 5th Place – Mini Muckers – The Future of Tonopah

The Nevada State Mining Championships took place Saturday as well, kicking off just after noon with a huge audience gathering around the site. “The crowd was estimated at more than 500 this year!” Eastley, who helped run the event, reported.

Filling the bleachers, plunking down camp chairs around the edges and standing against the fence encircling the competition area, the spectators were obviously eager for the start of the show, when the dirt would start flying and the brawn of the competitors would be on full display. There were mucking and jacking competitions for both men and women, with mucking involving tossing earth into a cart and jacking the process of drilling a hole into a rock using a steel drill and a hammer. Both are key elements in the mining industry and these contests are a well-loved tradition in the Tonopah community.

But it wasn’t just the adults who got in on the action. Eastley noted that Nick and Peter Maffey, ages just 9 and 11, took part and she was thrilled by their enthusiasm. “These two young boys wanted to try their hand at drilling. They each drilled five minutes on the same hole. This is how we grow drillers!” she raved.

A craft fair with 25 booths was held inside the Tonopah Convention Center and Saturday also included a horseshoes tournament, wine tasting, gold panning and a race at the Tonopah Speedway. Sunday rounded off the festive portion of Jim Butler Days, with more mining competitions, horseshoe tourneys, the Jim Butler Stampede and the much-anticipated Jim Butler Days Raffle Drawing.

The large-scale raffle was comprised of all kinds of prizes, including the biggest of them all, a beautiful patio set donated by the Jim Butler Days Committee itself. An enormous number of businesses helped make the raffle a success and Eastley expressed her profound thanks for their generosity. “We sold nearly 10,000 raffle tickets!” she said.

While harkening back to the days of the Old West and Tonopah’s place in it is always a focus for the event, Eastley noted that it also serves an economical purpose by bringing people from all over to the town.

“It might seem like an old-fashioned founders day event but it’s really designed to encourage people to visit Tonopah, stay at our hotels and motels, and patronize our businesses during the three-day weekend,” Eastley said. “I’m happy to report that every lodging establishment was sold out, and I’ve received positive feedback from business owners who said their sales were outstanding. We’re proud of the important role our community played in Nevada’s history and we are always pleased to share our history with visitors.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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