By Dawn Cranfield
Reno Sheep Dip Show a Big Success
The 49th Annual Sheep Dip was held in Sparks, Nevada, on January 18 and 19 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. The annual event is a satirical roast of the past year’s top newsmakers “poking fun at the venal, the greedy, the pompous, and the incompetent among our politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders.” (Diez – President’s Letter, Sheep Dip Program)
“Sheep Dip is a cleansing element in which sheep are literally dipped. Today we dip our newsmakers in the satirical vat of Sheep Dip to cleanse them of their past deeds…so that they may go right back and be foolish again!” (sheepdipshow.org)
Sheep Dip, Inc. is a nonprofit organization benefiting local charities; each year different groups are selected to receive monies from the event. This year’s recipients are The Children’s Cabinet, For Kids Foundation, and Evelyn Mount’s
Community Outreach who suffered a theft of turkeys from her program this year.
The entertaining show is a combination of singing, dancing, and Dean Martin style roasting and one-line zingers that often had the audience either laughing or jeering. Not every joke was a hit, though; at one point, radio personality JJ Christy joked, “When there is a fire in Sun Valley, they just call that urban renewal.”
Songs, dances, and skits are compelling with themes based on the local politics and issues surrounding Reno, Sparks, and Virginia City. If you are a local or have visited the area during the last year, it is easy to understand how the group found their material.
The 100 member strong troop lampooned the Moana Lane roadwork, the diverging diamond, the lack of coordinating efforts between agencies in Reno and Sparks, and many other issues in the area. One of the funniest continuing skits throughout the nights was a talking parking meter. She coaxed customers to provocatively put their money in her slot, while they could not remember their parking spaces, had trouble coming up with money, and generally did not trust her. If you were in downtown Reno when the meters were new, you would understand the humor.
The Sheep Dip gives a Shaft Award to those newsmakers who have been particularly unclean during the year. On Friday night, Governor Brian Sandoval was presented with the “Buck Stops Here” Award because Nevada inmates have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment checks. He was presented his award by a man dressed as a prisoner; when the man held out his hand for his unemployment check, he kindly handed him a $20 bill. It was all in good fun.
Also receiving a Shaft Award on Friday night was Comstock Mining Inc for the controversy in Virginia City over their open-pit mine in a historic district. Corrado de Gasperis, CEO, received the award dressed in period clothing from Fred’s Closet in Virginia City. de Gasperis was presented the award by a local madam; on the podium he commented, “My son said, daddy, I thought if you had the gold, that meant you were in charge. No son, I said, that’s the BLM.” He received a hearty laugh from the audience.
There were a few moments of quiet reflection, as the wife of the late state senator Bill Raggio stood on stage and gave her memories of her husband. “Humor was an important quality to my husband in his life. Sheep dip was one of his favorites. We will miss him terribly, but the show must go on.” A video of Raggio singing “My Way”, karaoke style, in the senate played on the big screens and the audience was visibly moved. His passing did little to stop the needling, though, as continuous jokes at his expense peppered the evening; there was a joke about $20 that he owed was retold throughout the evening.
Other notable deaths mentioned were the passing of radio personality Wild Bill Cody and Ed the Waver. For locals, they were somber moments in an otherwise very light and entertaining evening.
Participants are not always thrilled to be lampooned by the group; so for those that show up and take their lumps, the group is grateful. The jeers and jabs are not meant to be spiteful, but humorous and insightful. In the 49-year history, only one governor has failed to attend. In 2010, Governor Jim Gibbons felt the event was in poor taste and decided not to be present. However, his ex-wife attended in his place; wish I could have been there.
The troop works diligently on collecting news stories throughout the year to determine what they should present to the community. There are no professional actors or dancers, and all of the material is original.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Sheep Dip and will coincide with Nevada’s 150th anniversary; it promises to be a huge event. As President Roger Diez says, if you did not find yourself to be a target in this year’s show, just do something stupid, and you might be next year.