Volunteers sweeten Candy Dance

Candymakers stir the pot in the Genoa Town Kitchen on Aug. 26.

Candymakers stir the pot in the Genoa Town Kitchen on Aug. 26.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

More than a ton of the homemade confections that give the Genoa Candy Dance its name are under production as preparations begin in earnest for the annual fundraiser that supports Nevada’s oldest town.

Arguably the queen of those confections, the famous fudge, is being whipped up by Candy Making Chairwoman Sherry Eriksen and her volunteers, even as the town started selling tickets to the dance that is the oldest portion of the 103-year-old event.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Candy Dance, which requires around 200 to do everything from direct traffic and parking to sell candy to lay out the very grid for the nearly 400 vendors who provide most of the revenue and draw for the fundraiser.

Genoa Town Board members are scheduled to discuss an agreement with the county that will allow them to keep that volunteer force intact.

Interim Town Manager Amanda Reid’s regular job is to help coordinate volunteers for Douglas County Community Service.

Under the agreement, volunteer managers who have undergone the county’s background procedure would supervise the many volunteers in the wide variety of needs required to conduct a successful Candy Dance.

As several town residents pointed out in June, Candy Dance volunteers have not been required to undergo the requirements implemented by the county.

“The Ladies of Genoa,” Lillian Virgin Finnegan, Jane Campbell and Mary Wyatt, are credited with cooking up Candy Dance in 1919 in order to install streetlights just a few years after the town lost the county seat.

The dance, where candy was served, raised enough money to pay for the electricity to keep the lights illuminated for years and help with repairs in town.

The craft fair was established by residents to fund the town’s recreation program in 1974. The fair grew over the next decades, eventually blooming from a few vendor booths in Mormon Station State Historic Park to taking over the entire town.

For most of the next 25 years, the craft fair and everything it entailed was run entirely by volunteers with some support from the county. In 1992, the town advertised for a secretary-bookkeeper to help keep track of the proceeds. That position lasted until 2002 when Genoa hired its first town manager. As the number of people willing to take on the role of volunteer dance chairman decreased, running the overall event fell more and more to the town manager.

That resulted in an event that was almost entirely volunteer for decades coming under the purview of the government. When the county revised its volunteer policy to require background checks a dozen years ago, implementation of that policy was left to department heads. In the case of the town, the policy remained on the shelf until this year when the county determined it should be enforced evenly across its departments, which includes Genoa.

Reid said she’s confident that the agreement between the town and the county will ensure the town will have enough volunteers to conduct a successful event the end of this month.

That’s a good thing, since posters are up around town featuring the artwork of longtime Minden photographer Jay Aldrich and tickets to the actual Candy Dinner-Dance went on sale Aug. 31 at genoanevada.org.

Only nine tickets are available in the 1919 Society $85 reserved seating, while there are 234 general admission seats available at $60 each.

Tickets may also be purchased at the Genoa offices for the 5:30-10 p.m. dinner. Coco Moe’s is catering the dinner. Music will be performed by the Red Headed Strangers and the Sierra Sweethearts.

The annual two-day craft fair that takes over the town Sept. 24-25 generates the lion’s share of the budget every year.


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