ELKO — Elko’s new Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum attracted dignitaries like Nevada’s Secretary of State and Attorney General to its ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon.
The museum’s grand opening was scheduled to coincide with this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and attracted dozens of buckaroos and cowgirls from the Western Folklife Center — a horseshoe’s toss across the parking lot.
Elko historian Jan Petersen said, “This building was the old saddle shop of G.S Garcia from 1907 to 1938, then belonged to the power company for seventy-seven years until they donated it for the museum. NV Energy has been a great benefactor.”
“Garcia started Nevada’s first rodeo here in Elko in 1912,” Petersen said, “He also started the rodeos in Reno and Winnemucca. He was quite the entrepreneur and visionary.”
Petersen said the new “history destination” was connected with Elko’s Downtown Business Association, the California Trail Center, the Western Folklife Center, and the Northeastern Nevada Museum. The current collection at the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum includes saddles and bridles on loan from the Western Folklife Center, the Northeastern Nevada Museum, and from two private collections.
Paul Caudill, president of NV Energy, spoke to the crowd about moving to Elko for the first time and finding his new headquarters inadequate. Caudill decided to build a new facility and donate the former G.S. Garcia Harness Shop for a cowboy gear museum.
“Instead of turning the building into another commercial space,” Caudill said, “I wanted to bring people off the interstate to a museum.”
Jay Tubbs, NV Energy’s Director of Real Estate and Facilities North, spoke about the challenges of renovating a historic building over a hundred years old.
“We kept yesterday’s look with today’s values,” Tubbs said, describing the energy-efficient additions of LED lighting, insulated windows, and a new boiler.
“It takes a team to do this kind of project,” Tubbs said, thanking Elko architect Catherine Wines.
Elko Mayor Chris Johnson told the crowd of cowboy hats, “This is an anchor for the future of Elko. It’s contagious; other store owners see it and improve their store fronts.”
“I always tell people Elko is the center of it all,” Johnson said. “The downside is it’s four hundred miles away from anything. Because we’re remote, we have to do things ourselves; if we don’t have it, we’re going to make it on our own.”
“When I first heard about this, it was spot-on,” Johnson said. “We all look forward to seeing its success, hoping for new changes downtown.”
John Wright, board president for the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, spoke about his mother’s life-long dream.
“It was my mom’s vision, she knew it was G.S. Garcia’s building, and it’s fitting for my family to take this on as her legacy and make this a destination in Elko.”
“This ties downtown together,” Wright said, “People will come and see how much we have here, and then have to stay for the night. We want people to bring their families here for generations to come.”
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, grandson of Nevada’s first Basque governor, Paul Laxalt, said, “This museum is important for Elko, and shows the character of the community.”
“It’s incredibly important to me to preserve history,” Laxalt said, “Ranching and sheep herding are part of our culture. My family was sheep herders. Basques helped build Nevada; they’re part of its foundation.”
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said, “I’m honored to be here. It’s an amazing donation from NV Energy, and the people who put in the time to put it together. It’s really wonderful.”
“I’m also up here for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering,” Cegavske said. “I always have a wonderful time here.”
“Elko always makes you feel at home,” Cegavske said.