Brian Carolo vividly remembers the day in 1994 when his grandmother (who he lovingly calls his Nonna) gave him the keys to her 1949 four-door Cadillac sedan. He couldn’t believe it and tried to hand the keys back, but she was insistent that he take it.
“We want you to have it because we know you’ll take care of it,” she told him. The only condition was that Carolo had to pick her up on Sundays and take her wherever she wanted to go. Carolo kept his word, regularly visiting her in the rest home where she resided during his lunch breaks and after work to drive her around.
“We would go to Stead or Carson City or Gardnerville to get lunch. Sometimes she’d sit in the back like in Driving Miss Daisy,” he says. Nonna passed away in 2000 at 93 years old but her memory lives on through her classic car and Hot August Nights.
Carolo’s great-grandparents moved to Reno after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but went back and forth between Northern Nevada and Bay Area often, where Carolo believes his Nonna bought the Caddy.
“I remember us driving to San Francisco, being in the back of the car as a youngster,” Carolo says. “I never figured that I’d ever have that car,” he adds. Growing up in Sparks where his farther worked (Carolo is a Sparks High School alumni), he started a new family tradition by entering the 1949 Cadillac in Hot August Nights every year. About 25 years ago he found a spot next to a tree across from the old Silver Club where he parks Nonna’s car for Saturday’s Show ‘n’ Shine. Carolo gets up early to claim the spot year after year and people from all over the world who attend HAN come to see them.
Regarding this year’s HAN week-long festival, Carolo says, “This week was just awesome. We did the show ‘n’ shine and then deemed the parade day as Nonna Day. We buy candy and throw it out the windows, invite our friends and family and the people who worked on the car.”
A few years ago, the Carolos also took a 100-year-old Northern Nevada resident named Mary, who was friends with Nonna and remembers Brian when he was a baby, out in the parade. It was the first time she’d ever been in a parade and she absolutely loved it. Carolo says that was one of the highlights of HAN.
Carolo is sure to have his Nonna’s ready to go every year, lovingly washing, waxing, and detailing the event along with his wife Maddie. “She’s right there with me the whole time,” he says, along with their little Italian Bolognese dog named Domali (“it means ‘tomorrow’ in Italian because we’re always looking forward to the next day,” Brian optimistically says) who goes everywhere in the car with them. Brian adds that when he first acquired the car, he repainted it and did a lot of engine work on it, and always gets it detailed.
“If Nonna is going to give us something so precious in our family, then I’m going to take care of it,” he mentions. With their multi-generational roots in Sparks and the 1949 Caddy being a local car for many decades, Brian works closely with a repairman over at Streamline Auto Body & Paint. “Cliff at Streamline is a part of this car, he painted it. We have so much fun (during Hot August Nights) and spend most of the rest of the year cruising in Sparks,” Brian says.
“Hot August Nights is all about the nostalgia, the old cars, the people, and us telling the story of our grandmother. It’s our way of hanging out with her.
“It’s still my grandmother’s car, I’m just the lucky driver,” Brian says.