Genoa historian pens Candy Dance book |

Genoa historian pens Candy Dance book

by Joyce Hollister
Special to The R-C

How many streetlights were purchased with the proceeds from the first Genoa Candy Dance? When did the dance acquire is sweet name?

These and many more fun facts about the history of the Genoa’s annual fundraising bash are found in town historian Billie J. Rightmire’s new book, “The Genoa Candy Dance: The First 100 Years, 1919-2019.”

The slim volume of Genoa history, stories of dance founders Lillian Finnegan and Jane Campbell, and dance trivia, plus Candy Dance myths and time-honored candy recipes, will be on sale this weekend at the 100th Genoa Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire.

Added to the annals of the Candy Dance are cartoons drawn by Lew Hymers that Rightmire found in the town files. Born in 1892 and educated in Reno, Hymers was a nationally syndicated illustrator. In the 1930s and 1940s, his work appeared in the Nevada State Journal, and at one time he was a Walt Disney Co., animator.

Hymers was known for humorous caricatures of leaders in Reno and other Nevada communities in the Journal’s “Seen About Town” feature and for his amusing takes on the Candy Dance. Hymers and his wife made their home in Genoa for 10 years beginning in 1934. He designed the logo that is still used on the front page of The Record-Courier. He was affectionately called “the Mayor” by Genoa townspeople.

“Every cartoon you look at,” Rightmire said of Hymers’ drawings, “there’s something to laugh about — it makes you feel good.” The book contains eight of his Candy Dance-related cartoons and a self-portrait.

One drawing depicts a couple riding to the dance in a wagon pulled by an inquisitive horse. The buggy driver gazes at his lovely companion, who wears a large plumed hat. The caption notes: “The old timers still maintain that the long buggy ride to the Candy Dance was ‘half the fun’!”

Rightmire gleaned historical details of the Candy Dance from personal histories, news accounts and minutes of town meetings that go back to the 1940s, but, she said, “The (town board) didn’t have regular meetings. They had a meeting when it was necessary, maybe two a year, so whether I might be missing minutes, it’s hard to say.”

Having grown up in Genoa, Rightmire met her late husband, Don, at the Candy Dance in 1952. They married two years later and had three children.

After retiring from their ranch in Fallon, the Rightmires returned to Genoa in 1985. Just as she did as a young girl, she became involved in Candy Dance preparations. Don was elected to the town board, as was her uncle Walter Thran in the 1940s.

“Just about everyone in town served on the board at one time or another,” she said, since the town was so small. It was in 1992 that the late Frank Saunders suggested the board appoint Rightmire as the town historian.

“I’ve been very proud to be historian. It’s a feather in my hat,” Rightmire said. She drew upon her genealogy skills to organize the town’s history. She put the archives on acid-free paper and organized them into acid-free boxes housed at the town office. It’s a continual process.

The job is more than simply cataloguing information, however.

“If the town manager gets phone calls and questions, and he doesn’t know the answer, he can shift it over to me,” Rightmire said. “That takes a little bit off his shoulders.” This way, she said, he can concentrate on taking care of town business and getting ready for the centennial Candy Dance.

Rightmire organized a personal binder filled with town history for JT Chevalier, who has only been manager since March. He appreciates the help and often asks Rightmire for information about the town, which dates back to 1851.

She jumps at the chance to do research on Genoa.

“I love finding out little tidbits of something,” she said. A. (for Al) Livingston was one of her “tidbits.” The first owner of what is known now as the Genoa Bar, A. Livingston was quite young when he arrived in Carson Valley in the 1860s. He became a well respected boxing promoter in Carson City and Reno, entered politics and was elected to the state Senate twice, Rightmire found, one of those interesting facts that historians love to uncover.

Rightmire’s book offers interviews with old-timers and a historical timeline, as well as favorite recipes to try. In case you want to make, say 4,000 pounds of candy, you begin with $1,250 pounds of white sugar and finish with 200 pounds of Merken chocolate. To learn the entire shopping list, turn to page 15.

Rightmire will be selling her book for $10, $12.50 for mailing, and her 2010 book, “Cooking With Genoa Pioneers,” for $15, as long as they last.

Book buyers will find her at the information table in front of the town hall both days of the arts and crafts fair. “They can buy a book, go in the hall and buy some candy – and everything will be cool,” Rightmire said.

By the way, the answers to the trivia questions are: Three streetlights were purchased from proceeds from the first dance, one for each end of town and one for the middle. The first dance was known as the Harvest Dance, or possibly the Thrasher’s Ball, according to Rightmire. She said it wasn’t until around 1923 that the dance was officially was called the Candy Dance.