New events rule could start 'fair' fight

To Genoa resident and businesswoman Martha Williams, a new ordinance to allow events like Candy Dance and Carson Valley Days to eliminate competition is a violation of her constitutional rights.

"My constitutional rights are being totally infringed upon," she said. "Giving an exclusive permit for Candy Dance creates the classification that government events are being treated differently than other events."

Williams organizes the annual Peddler's Fair which coincides with Candy Dance. Her property is located inside the town on its southern boundary and is home to her business, Antiques Plus.

"Our rights are being trampled upon," she said of hers and other businesses in town. "They literally close our businesses during this event. I know I can't get regular business during the event, that's why I hold the Peddler's Fair."

The ordinance was requested by the Genoa Town Board in order to eliminate the sale of private booths during the annual fundraiser.

Proponents say Candy Dance is critical to the survival of Nevada's oldest town as an entity. Money from the event, held annually since 1919, goes to support town services and pay employees.

The vast majority of the money raised by the town from Candy Dance comes from booth fees. Booth spaces are sold by the town in Mormon Station State Historic Park and Genoa Park.

But recent years have seen the total income from the event decrease while costs have increased.

The new ordinance, before Douglas County commissioners on Thursday, would allow organizers of an event to block other events within a mile by applying for an exclusive festival permit.

Williams pointed out that while the ordinance was requested by Genoa, it applies all over the county.

"This is going to affect Minden and all the events over there," Williams said. "It's not going to stay in Genoa."

For instance, an organizer of an exclusive event on Esmeralda Avenue in Minden could prevent someone from using Minden Park. In Gardnerville, an exclusive permit in Heritage Park, could affect both Lampe and Stodick parks.

Under the ordinance the applicant would have to justify the need for exclusivity and others could testify against allowing it.

Williams said she has donated $18,000 to worthy causes over the years and has offered her parking lot to Candy Dance organizers.

"I think businesses, if they're not doing illegal activities, should do what they want when they are paying taxes to the county and the town," she said. "Where does anyone get off saying I'm stealing from the town because someone spends $25 at my fair? I feel the town is stealing from me."

In addition to the ordinance, county commissioners are schedule to discuss permits for Candy Dance, the Peddler's Fair and Phil Stoll, who operates the Autumn Boutique at the White house on Genoa Lane.

"I'm just trying to defend myself," she said. "I'm trying to survive in a climate that is not good for business at all, and all I get is flak from the town. Anything that brings money to town should be treated with respect."


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