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Genoa cooks up sweet fun

4th-year-volunteer candy maker Debbie Hinmon makes English Toffee in preparation of Candy Dance Wednesday in Genoa.
Brad Coman |

Beginning the first week of August, the Genoa Town Hall was converted into a candy factory where roughly 3,000 pounds of candy has been measured and mixed with care by volunteers in preparation for the 97th annual Candy Dance Craft Faire set for Sept. 24-25.

“We make as much as we can every day,” said volunteer Lucette Simon. “We try to be done and have everything ready a few days before the event.”

Peanut brittle, toffee, peanut butter cups, fudge and almond bark are on the preparation list for the two-day fair.

“One of the most popular is the divinity candy,” said Town Manager Phil Ritger. “It’s a famous egg white and sugar recipe that goes way back and is always a favorite.” The candy is called Virginia Henry’s divinity, and is one of the original candies still being made. The team making it is Lynne Speir, Chris Ritger, June DeTurk, Becky Pappenfort and Elaine Shively.

“It’s amazing that all this candy is made by volunteers.” Simon said. “Everyone does an amazing job and we rely on all the help we can get.”

The candy is handmade and packaged with not a crumb wasted.

“We take advantage of what we have,” said Simon. “Shavings of peanut brittle and toffee are used as toppings for the pretzel sticks and fudge, we us it all.”

Ninety-five year-old Richard Bell said he has been volunteering since the very beginning.

“I enjoy helping and doing what ever is needed,” he said. “It’s nice to be involved in this tradition and piece of history.”

Volunteers are needed and welcome in making candy and preparation for the Candy Dance.

“We want this to be fun and bring people together,” said Simon. “We encourage couples, friends, family members and people of the community to come and help us do so. It’s for a good cause and a good opportunity to meet people of the community and be involved.”

The Genoa Candy Dance has been a tradition since 1919 when Lillian Virgin Finnegan proposed it as a fundraiser to install streetlights around the community. Since then it has drawn in crowds from Reno, Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville and surrounding areas making it one of Genoa’s most popular venues and adding a substantial portion to the town’s annual budget.

“Genoa is historic little town, and we want to see it survive,” said Simon.

All candy will be for sale at the Town Hall during the Candy Dance, buyers should bring a cooler to keep candy from melting as it is made with no additional preservatives or stabilizers.