This three-day event gives Tonopahans and visitors alike a chance to enjoy an assortment of activities, rich in Nevada culture
By Eric Cachinero
When a Nevada prospector reportedly tossed a rock in the direction of a burro that had wandered off, who would have known that he was stumbling upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada’s history? Tonopah, known as the Queen of the Silver Camps, will honor the man who started it all with its 43rd annual Jim Butler Days over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27. The three-day event gives Tonopahans and visitors a chance to enjoy an assortment of activities including stock car races, bartender/waitress races, an arm-wrestling competition, street dancing, parade, and even a raffle from which one lucky winner takes home a bar of silver.
The conception of the festival dates to 1970 in a small Tonopah coffee shop called Jerry’s. Bob Perchetti, director of the Tonopah Convention Center at the time, sat down with then president of the Tonopah Chamber of Commerce, Jim Younghands, when an idea sparked. “I knew about other celebrations from the turn of the century,” Perchetti says. “I thought it would be a great idea to call the new celebration Jim Butler Days, and pattern it after the great celebrations of the past. They always had a large parade and street dances, and I wanted to have the State Mining Championships in Tonopah.”
After the town of Gabbs stopped hosting the Nevada State Mining Championships, Perchetti says he met with Governor Michael O'Callaghan and asked him if he would declare Tonopah and Jim Butler Days the new home of the Nevada State Mining Championships. “Governor O'Callaghan happily agreed to this, and that is how Jim Butler Days started,” Perchetti says.
He adds that the parade has also had some unique grand marshals, including Governors Bob Miller, Kenny Guinn, and Jim Gibbons, and celebrities such as actor Robert Conrad.
The Nevada State Mining Championships has become as much a part of Jim Butler Days as the town itself. Reminiscent of the mining events and competitions that occupied prospectors’ time and gold more than a century earlier, the contests include double- and single-jack drilling, spike driving, a blindfolded wheelbarrow obstacle course, and the most attended event—individual and team mucking.
Heather Ingalls, host of the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, says the championships provide competition for participants and a great show for attendees. “The championships give people a look at mining events as they used to happen years ago,” she says.
Jim Butler Days, Tonopah