Gene Weingarten, a Washington Post Sunday Magazine writer, proclaimed Battle Mountain "Armpit of America" in 2001. That was darn right nasty of him.
Battle Mountain was the place where a band of Shoshones attacked a group of whites back in 1857. You can always tell how one of those fights went - it was a battle if the whites won and a massacre if the Indians came out on top. The place became a mining and railroad town - still is. It's also the Lander County seat of government
That newspaper scribe didn't figure on the pride that courses through most American West communities. Battle Mountain citizens didn't whine or wail about the title. They got together and put on the Festival in the Pit. There are billboards along Interstate 80 that proudly proclaim the event. It's been going on for three years and even has a big time corporate sponsor - Old Spice.
A large toilet seat hangs on the "Welcome to Battle Mountain" sign. Almost everyone in town supports the festivities that start with a street dance on Friday. Saturday is the big day beginning with the Pony Express Road Race with children pulling decorated wagons. Famed Ronald McDonald did a magic show.
A person could really get tuckered out trying to participate in all the events. Quoting Lisa Wolf in the Elko Daily Free Press, August 17, 2005: "The festival sported a dunk tank, volleyball tournament, massage therapist (?), horseshoe throwing contest, wheelbarrow contest, Poker Run, boxing, rapelling off the water tower, and Indian fry bread.
"The beauty/talent pageant was a tie between a women who glued Mormon crickets to her underarms and a little girl who breakdanced." Indian fry bread, by the way, is one of the great treats offered at celebrations in the West.
That ought to be enough to keep everyone entertained but Battle Mountain people do things in a big way. There was a beer chugging contest and the local band of Native Americans performed traditional dances along with a dance honoring mothers and the earth.
Winners won Old Spice Deodorant. What did you expect? Trophies?
There is, too, the fact that westerners will use any excuse for a party and Battle Mountain throws a great party. I'm still trying to figure out why the massage therapist at the celebration?
A Blue Grass Festival has replaced Festival of the Pit beginning in 2006. Shucks!
Sources: "Battle Mountain hosts 'Festival in the Pit'" by Lisa J. Wolf, Elko Daily Free Press, August 17, 2005; Nevada Place Names, Helen S. Carlson, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 1974.