By Teri Vance
Nevada’s White Pine County is no stranger to an adrenaline rush. It holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest speed on a public highway from the “Silver State Classic Challenge.” It is home to Fears, Tears and Beers, the oldest mountain bike enduro race in North America and Race the Rails, which pits bicycles against trains.
“We have no problems setting records and doing things that have never been done before,” said Meg Rhoades, event planning specialist for the White Pine County Tourism Authority. “We like stepping out of that box.”
Having already conquered the highways, trails and rails, the community is now taking its thrill-seeking to the skies.
The Ely Air Races are coming to the Yelland Field, north of Ely, on June 13-16.
“It’s pretty exciting to see things really coming together,” Rhoades said. “We’ve had such wonderful support.”
The event will feature F1 races, hot air balloon rides, military displays, smoke-jumping demonstrations, food, music and more.
Qualifying heats will be held Wednesday, with races beginning Thursday and concluding Saturday. The Nevada Air National Guard will fly in for a demonstration Thursday.
Rhoades estimates it will take about 7,000 volunteer hours during the week of the show to make it a success. That’s on top of countless hours of planning.
“It’s just been a tremendous effort,” she said. “For a community of 5,000 people to step up and take on this kind of commitment is huge.”
And Ely isn’t done setting records.
As the first new air race in the western United States in 34 years, it will also be the highest elevation air races ever — with an altitude of 6,259 feet.
“They may even set some speed records here,” Rhoades said. “They say we have some of the best geothermal currents in the world.”
Ely, a small, isolated community more than 250 miles from the next largest city, may seem like an unlikely setting for pushing boundaries. But, Rhoades said, that’s exactly what makes it the perfect place for it.
“Our history is in ranching and mining, so there’s a lot of tough people in the area,” she said. “If you live in Ely, you’ve had to face challenges, but you love it and you want to show it off to people who come here.”
The air races are another way to do just that.
“We’re hoping that with the success of the races this year, we can make it even bigger and better next year,” Rhoades said.