History of the Candy Dance
In 1919, when many towns were coming into the age of street lights, Genoa residents, feeling the need to have the new electric gadgets installed, had to figure out a way to either pay for them outright or be assessed for the expense.
All sorts of ideas were tossed about. And then, while on board a cruise ship, Lillian Virgin Finnegan (1878-1939) of Genoa, attended a shipboard dance where candy, served on silver trays, was offered free to the guests.
This sparked in her the idea that perhaps a dance with free homemade Genoa candy would make an excellent fund-raiser for the street lights. The townspeople set about preparing for a dance to be held in the old Raycraft Hotel Dance Hall. Admission was $1.50, which naturally included free homemade candy served on silver trays, and a midnight supper. To everyone’s surprise, except, of course, Lillian’s, more than enough money was raised that year to pay for the lights.
The next year, another dance was held and more candy was made, but this time the money went for the maintenance of not only the street lights but road repair. As the years rolled by, the Genoans began calling the event Candy Dance. And more uses were found for the money they raised, some of which paid for the purchase of the Raycraft Dance Hall after the hotel was torn down. That old dance hall became Genoa’s Old Town Hall where the traditional Saturday night dance is still held to this day.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s that a few artisans set up some outdoor booths to display and maybe sell their handiwork, for a small stipend to the town, of course. This became such a hit with visitors, that more booths were added the next year. Finally, the booths moved to the park.
The one-day affair turned into two, and the candy was boxed and sold from its own special booth. So, what once was a handful of artists has now turned into 300 fine art and craft artisans from across the country; and what once was a little event which brought 50 to 100 people around the area, has turned into an event that brings well over 40,000.
The main attraction that makes this now famous outdoor event so appealing for all who attend is, not only the homemade candy and the dance with the complimentary dinner, but also the fact that the artist or “crafter” must be present at his or her booth throughout the event to meet and sell to the public.
Over the years, many of the artists and crafters who have sold their work at Candy Dance have gone on to become well-known in the art and collectible world.