Candy Dance chair finds it a challenge, but rewarding
“Every year is a challenge, but I enjoy doing Candy Dance, even if I do find myself escaping under a crafter’s table to take some much needed time out,” says Ann Marie Evans, four-year chairperson for Genoa’s overwhelmingly successful fund-raiser. “I want this annual event to be the best event for everyone of all ages.”
Born in Santa Clara, Calif., and raised in South Lake Tahoe, her family owned the Villa Montreux Motel and Stateline Garage and Towing. While in South Lake Tahoe, Ann became involved as a volunteer with many non-profit organizations, such as Good Samaritans and the Voluntary Action Center, which supports non-profit organizations in finding volunteers to help run their organizations and fund-raising events.
She chaired many events, such as car shows, grand openings, sock hops and sing-a-thons, to name a few.
Then in 1989, she and her family moved to Genoa after losing a bitter battle to save their businesses from demolition by the South Lake Tahoe Redevelopment Agency.
After moving to Genoa, Ann quickly became involved in Candy Dance as chair of the candy sales. Little did she know that by changing something simple, like the traditional one sales line to four, she would be ridiculed by the Candy Dance hard-line traditionalists who insisted that it would never work. But it did work! People didn’t have to wait as long in line and more candy was sold. In fact, they ran out of the precious commodity. But regardless of the successful candy sales, Ann was snubbed.
“Change comes hard to a small town like Genoa,” says Ann, “regardless of degree.”
Then burnout hit the town of Genoa and no one would volunteer to be chair for the next year’s Candy Dance. Ann was the one who took up the challenge. In spite of never having organized or run an event of this magnitude and not knowing what to expect from the close-knit residents of Genoa to a newcomer running the fund-raiser that “feeds” the town, Ann jumped right in. To add to it, dissension between the businesses and the town residents and the Advisory Board began to swell.
According to Ann, the catalyst apparently was when the Town Advisory Board asked the business owners to help pay for the costs incurred for putting on Candy Dance, even after the many years of volunteering their time in the organizing and running of the event.
Ann’s main focus as chair was to do whatever she could to bridge the rift between the business owners and the Town Advisory Board. The change was slow but steady. It’s true that Candy Dance helps some of the businesses in town in revenue, but it is just as true that some of the businesses suffer a loss. But, this year, 1997, marks the first year in a long time that the Town Advisory Board and the business owners have come to an agreement. Everyone is helping.
“I want Candy Dance to be fun and exciting again,” says Ann, enthusiastically. “Candy Dance is attracting more and more people. Some people say that Candy Dance is too big, but it doesn’t matter what we do, the people would still come. We could reduce the amount of vendors, the people would come. We could hold it only one day, the people would still come. They come because Candy Dance has a worldwide reputation of being a high quality fair.”
As long as the Candy Dance Committee insists that the artist or crafter of the product made must be at their booth to sell to the public, the high quality fair will remain.
“I want to see that this quality is kept,” says Ann.
Although realizing that change comes hard for a small town like Genoa, Ann has continued to implement more changes to Candy Dance over the four years she has been chair – changes for the better. She added the package drop at the Genoa Church for the shoppers, enhanced the information booth to include the location of the vendors, added an ATM machine for the convenience of the shoppers and, this year, added the antiques show and sale and additional free parking with shuttle buses.
“I get phone calls and letters full of suggestions. We even have a suggestion box. My job is to listen to those suggestions. Sometimes I take them too much to heart, but I try to hear what the people have to say.”
If Ann thinks a suggestion is a good one, she tries to incorporate it, with the permission of the Town Board, of course. If it is a criticism such as a visitor threatening never to attend Candy Dance again because he or she cannot conveniently park on the town streets, Ann will patiently try to explain that the safety of the residents of Genoa must come first. Mostly, the comments, phone calls and letters have been compliments for a job well done. After all, Candy Dance is not put on by promoters. Many long hours are put in for a high quality fair for all to enjoy – and it’s all done by volunteers!
“I want Candy Dance to be a family event,” Ann says. “Something for everyone. I would even like to see it go to three days. I may get shot for saying that, but that is what I’d like to see. Many locals don’t attend because it is too crowded. Three days may disperse the crowds a little more and then maybe the locals will attend once again. The only obstacle I can see to the three days is that schools are in sessionunless they make it (Candy Dance) a national holiday.”
Who knows, with Ann as chair, that, too, could happen.