The Great Italian Festival
Happens on the First Weekend of October Every Year, Downtown Reno
Go for: The Pasta Sauce Cook-Off where you get to sample pasta sauces from different Italian-American families hailing from various regions of Italy. Buy a bowl of pasta (it was $3 this year) or bring your own bowl! Tastings are free! You also have to have El Dorado's mushroom ravioli. It is delicious! There's live music set outdoors, and a market as well.
The (First) Annual Thai Festival
Second Weeknd of October at Wat Buddhapradeep Temple on 12th Street in Sparks
A small, but promising celebration of Thai culture, this one is colorful as it is enlightening. Between the Thai traditional dances, live traditional music, and Muay Thai demonstrations, the food is delicious (and hot, many times!) and the company, very warm. For Thai food that is $5 per plate, it was the cheapest alternative right now to a flight to Thailand. My favorite was the green curry. I don't mind if you smother the white rice with sauce, thank you. And that Thai coffee for a $1? Yes, please IV me to it.
I hope this fesival comes back next year because if they do, I sure will!