By Jill Oberly, RGJ
From pioneer days of the west to present, wild horses have played a storied role in the history of Northern Nevada.
According to data compiled by the Bureau of Land Management in March, there are more than 40,000 wild horses, also known as Mustangs, in 10 western states. More than half of those can be found in Nevada.
Visitors can view and learn about these magnificent creatures and their history in Northern Nevada at the inaugural Wild Horse Faire on Saturday in Virginia City. Organizers of the inaugural event have planned a full day of activities from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. that promises to be fun for the whole family.
"As far as we know, there never has been such an event in Virginia City for the wild horses," Bonnie Matton, president of the Wild Horse Preservation League, said. "We have had musical events, but never one so varied. At the all-day event, there will be something there for all ages."
The event lasts all day starting with the opening of exhibit spaces at the Silverland Inn & Suites at 9 a.m. followed by a pancake breakfast at 10 a.m. Cost for the pancake breakfast is $8. Exhibit booths and activities include food and beverage vendors, arts and crafts, face painting, hot air balloon rides, pony rides and more. The event will also feature a raffle and silent auction.
A parade down C Street will take place at noon.
"It is one thing seeing them, but another actually knowing what their plight is. They are wild horses. They live in the wilderness and a lot of them are feral," Robert Steiner, general manager of the Silverland Inn & Suites, said. "I think a lot of people really don't have a good grasp or understanding of what it is that these horses do and how they survive."
The afternoon features an encore performance of "What It Means To Be A Mustang" by Terri Farley at 1 p.m. And car enthusiasts will enjoy the Reno Mustang Car Club's display of a variety of new and classic Mustangs in front of the Silverland Inn & Suites parking lot at 1:30 p.m.
Attendees will have the opportunity to see the horses up close with hands-on wild horse clinics put on by Willis Lamm of Least Resistance Training Concepts including a large animal rescue demonstration at 2 p.m., which will be followed by a demonstration of wild horse gentling techniques at 3 p.m. and a wild horse exhibition at 4 p.m.
"We just want to see people attending have a good time and remember the wild horses as they are so very much a part of the history of North America," Matton said.
While one of the main goals of the event is to raise funds for Nevada's wild horses, the organizers also hope to bring awareness to the challenges the wild horses face especially in years such as this given the drought conditions.
"If we don't do something to preserve our history and these types of great creatures which represent our national heritage, they'll go away eventually," Steiner said. "Either civilization will encroach upon them or they'll be taken away from their natural habitat like so many of our other wildlife creatures have been."
The Wild Horse Faire wraps up with a charity concert at the Silverland Inn & Suites from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets for the concert are $22 if purchased in advanced and $28 at the door.
Performers include Lacy J. Dalton, Dale Poune, and David John and the Comstock Cowboys among others. For a full list of concert performances as well as activities throughout the day, visit www.wildhorsefaire.com.
There is no charge to walk around the faire and visit the various vendor booths. Tickets for the raffle, pancake breakfast and concert can be purchased online. For a limited time, a free child ticket for children 12 and younger will be given with the purchase of an adult concert ticket.
For those who won't be able to attend the event, but are interested in supporting the wild horses, donations can be made online as well.
"For the inaugural event, what I am looking for is successful fundraising activities in raising money for the horses. Also, making sure everybody has fun at the same time," Steiner said. "It's one of those things, if you go somewhere and you have a lot of fun, then you always want to come back. I think it is going to be a great day."