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Reindeer Lodge turns 50; owner planning a shindig
July 25, 2003 Author: Don Cox; Staff  

Gary Schmidt, longtime owner of the funky old Reindeer Lodge on the Mount Rose Highway, wants to throw a party.

So Schmidt, known for being a crusty character who does things his own peculiar way, has proclaimed Saturday the start of a 50th anniversary celebration for the lodge, site of performances by some of the biggest San Francisco Bay Area rock 'n' roll bands of the 1960s and '70s.

Schmidt says he'll wake up those musical echos with a marathon concert featuring local groups and at least one old face, Barry Melton former guitarist for Country Joe and the Fish, known for its Woodstock performance.

Admission is free.

The party starts at 11 a.m. with an auction of music memorabilia and items from Schmidt's vast and sometimes controversial collection of old vehicles, machines and gadgets that sits inside and outside the Reindeer Lodge.

Live music is scheduled to begin outside at 4 p.m. Schmidt said bands will move inside at 8 p.m. and play until sunrise Sunday, with breakfast following the last song.

Along with the 50th anniversary bash, Saturday happens to be Schmidt's birthday. He'll be 60.

There's no doubt about the birthday. Schmidt knows he was born on July 26, 1943.

But the founding date of the Reindeer Lodge, considered by some a landmark and others and eyesore, isn't so certain. Sometime in the early 1950s is all Schmidt knows for sure.

So, he decided to pick a year in the middle - 1953.

"I've heard all the way from 1951 to '55," Schmidt, who bought the Reindeer Lodge in 1971, said with a laugh. "Maybe somebody will show up who will have some total verification."

It probably won't come from Melton. But the musician-turned-lawyer, who serves as the public defender for Yolo County in northern California, does know Schmidt.

"You can see he's been up to no good for 35 years," said Melton, who performed at the first California concert Schmidt promoted in 1968.

The Reindeer Lodge became a hot spot for music in northern Nevada after Schmidt arrived with all the contacts he'd made putting together rock shows in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"I fell in love with it instantly," Schmidt said of the lodge. "I said, `This is where I want to retire.' "

For years, the lodge had been a wintertime beer-and-burger stop for skiers headed back to Reno-Sparks after a day on the Sierra slopes.

It still is.

Schmidt said the establishment was first named the Rose Mount Lodge in the 1950s and Sundance Lodge in later years. Schmidt changed the name to Reindeer Lodge in 1972 and then brought the bands, featuring legendary rock musicians such as Elvin Bishop, Country Joe McDonald, Norton Buffalo and Cold Blood in the 1970s and '80s.

"There weren't many venues where those bands could play," Schmidt said of the northern Nevada music scene during those years. "Elvin Bishop, he couldn't get a date in casinos in the '70s. Now, he's in high demand all the time."

At the Reindeer Lodge, Schmidt stopped most of the music in the early 1990s. It was being played elsewhere. "Those type of acts have a lot of different venues," Schmidt said. "The times changed."

But some things have remained the same at the Reindeer Lodge.

There's the front yard full of old farm implements, snowmobiles, other implements and even an outhouse.

Schmidt refers to the stuff as his "antique" collection. He keeps everything despite criticism, some of it before the Washoe County Commission, from people who see the collection as junk.

"He gets a lot of static from his neighbors," said Bud Schoenfeld, who owns property across the road from the Reindeer Lodge. "I've told Gary to line it up and paint it, then people won't object."

Schmidt won't do it.

"You ruin those antiques when you paint them," he said.

Copyright (c) Reno Gazette-Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: ren2003072513201251

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