The Big Bananas…ahem…Bonanza
by Michael Zabel
Virginia City, NV – I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Sign painters do it right the first time.” Of course I immediately thought, who paints signs anymore? It is truly a lost art that has most recently been exploited by trendy clothing stores (where high school “surfers” can purchase t-shirts with pseudo businesses chocked full of sexual innuendos). The real deal is few and far between, unless you manage to stumble across Virginia City, a quaint mountain town in northwestern Nevada.
A brief history of Virginia City tells us that it is situated just south of an enormously prosperous gold and silver mine nicknamed the “big bonanza” (yes, like the TV show) and north of an nearly as prosperous mine. Logically, the founders of the town decided that the trend would continue if they plopped their city in between the two. Long story short…it was a bust. The town continued to host the miners who relocated there during the gold rush and today the remnants of a true wild west (sultry madams, lost poker matches, impromptu gunfights in dark saloons, even Mark Twain) grace every store front on the main street. Behold, the rise of a tourism industry, which may have also provided somewhat of a “big bonanza” of hand painted signs: