by Joey Crandall
Minden Park has been in existence ever since the ink dried on the original maps of the town in 1906.
Long the hallmark of the now 100-year-old town, the classic town square has played host to everything from state dignitaries and some of Carson Valley’s most time-honored traditions to weddings and summer concerts.
Residents of Carson Valley have become accustomed to spending peaceful lunch hours sitting at the concrete picnic tables or walking beneath the ample shade provided by the majestic cottonwood trees bordering each side of the park.
The basic design and layout has changed little over the years, always with a bandstand and flagpole playing as the central landmarks to both the park and the community.
Carson Valley Day made its debut in the park on June 11, 1910. It included a free barbecue, wrestling match, foot races, a baseball game, and a dance was held on a 100-square-foot platform was constructed in the park.
It would seem that nearly every time a major change was made at the park, it came just in time for that year’s Carson Valley Day celebration.
A flag pole and accompanying flag was purchased by the residents of Minden in 1917 and dedicated on May 25, just weeks before that year’s Carson Valley Day.
The 90-foot tall pole was dedicated on the morning of Douglas County’s annual track and field meet.
Nevada Gov. Emmet Boyle delivered the dedication address, speaking on the need to support the American Red Cross and buy Liberty bonds.
Minden School students sang patriotic songs while a 17-foot by 30-foot flag was raised on the pole.
While in the Valley that day, Boyle made arrangements to establish a Douglas County chapter of the Red Cross. Incidentally, the Minden Inn first opened several weeks later.
The park’s original bandstand was constructed sometime between the 1910 and the 1917 Carson Valley Day. The exact date is unknown, but the structure consisted of six columns, each topped by a large globe light, and made mostly of wood.
Through the park’s early years, the grass was mowed by Minden’s Herman Leehman, who did the job with a team of horses pulling the mower. It was an all-day, once-a-week chore for Leehman.
In 1952, the Carson Valley Active 20-30 Club installed a new flag pole, this one bearing the names of the Douglas County men who died in World War II.
The pole, along with a bronze commemorative plaque, was dedicated on Carson Valley Day, June 14.
Lt. Col. Donald B. Hubbard from the U.S. Marine Corps base at Pickel Meadows, Calif., addressed the crowd ” reading of the names of the honored dead while a Carson City band played taps.
Years of being exposed to the elements proved to be too much for the old bandstand and in 1983, the Minden Rotary Club tore it down to make room for a new, bigger facility.
There was some controversy as several Minden residents said they wanted to keep the bandstand and renovate it, but Rotarians found most of the beams to be rotted through.
Architect Peter Wilday donated the plans for the project and monitored the job as it progressed. He also donated about $3,000 worth of shrubs to be planted around the perimeter of the structure.
Bob Williams donated about four months of his time to build the structure, which when it was completed was estimated to be worth $175,000.
Carson Valley Days fell on June 9 in 1984, and members of the Rotary spend June 8 putting the finishing touches on the new bandstand, painting and planting shrubs up until the last minute.
Several days later, longtime Carson Valley residents Bobby and Sandy Wartgow became the first of hundreds of couples to have their wedding at the bandstand, which has come to be known as a gazebo.
The new structure, the gazebo current Valley residents enjoy, was dedicated on July 8 with an ice cream social and an address from Lt. Governor Bob Cashell.
The ceremony included banjo music and the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the building to Rotarian Wilton Neddenriep, who died two years prior in a farming accident.
“It (the bandstand) will last a lifetime,” Lawrence Jacobsen, then a 33-year member of the Minden Rotary, told The Record-Courier. “All the beams (in the old bandstand) were rotten, we touched the bandstand with a backhoe and it just caved in. It was a real hazard.”
In the years since, the bandstand has become the site of the annual Minden lighting of the tree ceremony at Christmas (The tree, incidentally, is comprised of strands of Christmas lights strung in a cone pattern around the flag pole), the summer concerts in the park series, and various other community events through the year.
n Some facts for this article came from “Minden, Nevada: The Story of a Unique Town,” a book by Wynne M. Maule, who participated in tearing the old bandstand down and grew up just across the street from Minden Park.