NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Howdy Party


This is the social event that kicks off the week! Cavers from across the country and around the world rarely get the chance to meet in the same place at the same time. The annual Howdy Party will set the tone for the rest of the week!

This year, following our traditional irreverence, we've renamed this event the "Donner Party Howdy Party"! That ill-fated group of travellers came through eastern Nevada before they headed across the desert to the Sierra Nevadas.

But instead of feasting on your friends, you can just feast with them at this event! And if you want to go all-in, we'll have some prizes for best costume. So come dressed as your favorite wagon master (or other side dish) and we'll greet you at the 75th Anniversary Howdy Party! (just, please, stay away from the kitchen - you really don't want to know.)

Of course, ghosts and zombies are always welcome!

Convention Rookies:
Tickets to the "Donner Party Howdy Party" are included in your registration package. The evening includes dinner, entertainment and social events with cavers from around the world.

On Stage: The New Christy Minstrels!

In the world of music, it's rare to find a single artist who defines an era of entertainment. But when that same artist also defines an entire genre... Magic happens.

The 2016 NSS Convention is pleased to welcome Grammy Award-winning artist, Randy Sparks and The New Christy Minstrels as our headline performers at the official "Donner Party Howdy Party" on Monday, July 18 in Ely, Nevada!

The New Christy Minstrels

For cavers steeped in the musically-rich 1960s and 70s, this performance will take you back to the edge of the counter-culture period of American history. Even the "lesser experienced" of our society, will recognize Sparks' influence on later performers whose careers he helped launch; John Denver, Barry McGuire, Kenny Rogers, Michael Martin Murphey, Gene Clark, Kim Carnes, and comedian-turned-bluegrass artist, Steve Martin.

Founded by Randy Sparks, The New Christy Minstrels delivers a big sound of finely tuned harmonics through the vocal and acoustic talents of the 7-piece ensemble. Now in their 6th decade of entertainment, their repertoire includes the iconic classics, "Green, Green", "Today", "Saturday Night", "Mighty Mississippi", and the protest-era hit "Eve of Destruction". Allowing for nearly 60 years of experience, an entire new set of originals are also woven into the mix.

Convention Rookie?

Are you new to NSS Conventions? If so, that's great! But, you need to learn your way around a bit before you jump into the deep end.

These are definitely festive events! You'd be hard-pressed to find an environment where you're surrounded by so many experts in caves and cave science. Yet, all of these people are like family. Many cavers have known each other for decades.

If you find yourself over-intoxicated, it's quite likely that your fellow cavers will take your keys and kindly escort you back to your tent to sleep it off.

However, fighting and illicit behavior will always be met with a zero-tolerance policy from our volunteer security staff. Same thing for underage drinking. If you decide to push that envelope, you can expect to be evicted from the event.

No excuses.
No apologies.
No refunds.

We have the sheriff's cell phone number. Don't make us use it.
Please behave.

But this is still a cave story.

In his formative years, Sparks yearned for an bygone time when artists often discovered the world by hitching rides on cross-country trains. Following the footsteps of his mentor, Burl Ives, Sparks started chasing the same path.

"I wanted to emulate his collection of songs from the people, but free-riders were no longer welcome on the railroads in 1951, so I opted instead to hitch-hike through the west."

Starting with $40, Sparks followed his wayfaring ways to the edge of "cave country" in California's Calaveras County (home of the 1975 NSS Convention).

"The ranch hand who'd carried me there told me there'd likely be cars and trucks going my way before nighttime, but that didn't happen... not one bit of traffic, so I spread my sleeping bag in the ditch and went to sleep. In the early morning, my first ride was with a man who owned Mercer Caverns near Murphys. He said to me, ‘You have a good gift-of-gab, and when you finish your field trip in geography, if you want a job, you're invited to work as a guide for my cave.'"

Sparks continued his real-life lessons by visiting Nevada, Utah and Idaho, learning much about history and the people of the west, some just generations away from famous heroes and villains. One of the historically-important small towns Sparks visited in his journey was Ely, Nevada.

"This was the genuine old west, and I was much impressed. Standing there on the highway, one could easily imagine the stagecoach coming to a halt to off-load 'painted ladies' for the entertainment of the boys who worked at the copper mine."

Following his journey of self-discovery, he then returned to Murphys to work the rest of the summer as a tourist guide at Mercer Caverns.

Sparks reminisced, "Now, almost exactly sixty-five years later, I have been invited back to Ely for the NSS 75th anniversary, and I'm bringing along my own 'Wayfarin' Strangers. The term full-circle comes to mind."