Goldfield has new welcome signs in the form of donkeys thanks to a federal grant awarded by Travel Nevada, a state agency that promotes Nevada as a travel destination.
Travel Nevada awarded grants to Esmeralda County under two programs, the COVID-19 Rural Recovery Grants program and the Volunteer Impact Program. Funding for both grant programs came from federal Coronavirus Relief Funds through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act.
Chris Moran, the media relations specialist with Travel Nevada, said Esmeralda County received a $30,000 COVID-19 Rural Recovery Grant for “Welcome to Historic Goldfield” signs at each end of Goldfield.
“The signs are envisioned to be the first step in creating a unique marketing brand for Goldfield,” Moran said in an email.
Astrid Larsen and her husband Richard Johnson, the two artists behind the project, who moved to Goldfield two years ago from Washington State, said the idea was born during the conversation they had over a year ago.
“We imagined how wonderful it would be to have donkey sculptures on corners in town, which led to the idea of donkey silhouettes that people could decorate,” Larsen said.
Thanks to the grant, they were paid to create the signs in the shape of donkeys. Larsen said they projected a photo of a real donkey, cut out numerous copies in wood, and primed them. They created 30 donkeys, however, they quickly realized that it wasn’t enough as the project generated a lot of interest among the local business community.
“The donkey project has really created a spark. People have had a blast decorating them. … We tried getting as many out as possible, but we are kind of new here, so we don’t know everybody. It was a great way to meet people though,” Larsen said.
She said people would show up late at night at her doorstep asking for donkeys.
“One night at about 8:30 or 9 p.m., there was a knock on our door and two women stood there in the dark. They said, ‘We want a donkey for the Mozart Club, but we are going to decorate it as a surprise for Gina! So don’t tell her!’ The donkey appeared by the bar a couple of days later and it’s amazing! It’s the best one in town.”
Now, the wooden donkeys greet visitors at many businesses such as Dinky Diner, Barbarossa&Bear, and the Mozart Tavern, along with other establishments throughout Goldfield.
Esmeralda County also received a $4,250 COVID-19 Rural Recovery Grant to add new signage on the Goldfield Visitor Center, Moran said. The county also received a $5,300 Volunteer Impact Program grant to establish a town mascot that will promote the town’s organizations and businesses “in a unique and memorable way,” Moran said.
While Travel Nevada runs a regular Rural Marketing Grants program, the grants awarded to Esmeralda County are stand-alone grants that were possible because of the coronavirus relief funds. Since these grants were funded by federal money they were subject to federal guidelines, mainly that the projects were supposed to be completed by Dec. 30, 2020.
“Wild donkeys are the first animals people see when they travel through this part of rural Nevada,” Larsen said. “They are part of mining history. And now they kind of represent the wild spirit of rural Nevada! People here are independent spirits who don’t like to be told what to do. They are a little wild themselves.”