R-C Neighborhoods: In Genoa, everyone thinks for his (or her) self
The profile for a community like Genoa is as complex as the people who live there. There are no set answers about what draws the people into a cohesive unit. As a matter of fact, according to some, agreeing to disagree may be the one thing that makes Genoa a unique place to live.
To start with, there is a difference of opinion as to who is a member of the community, and who is not. According to Michael Miluck, who serves on the Genoa Town Board, Sierra Shadows is part of Genoa. Genoa Lakes is not. It’s a matter of boundaries.
Yet Darlene Tiffany, who lives in Genoa Lakes with her husband, Ted, said that even though theoretically they don’t live within the town’s boundaries, “Genoa is our town, too.”
According to Tiffany sometimes Genoa Lakes residents are considered outsiders
“Some people don’t like our views because we are relatively new to the area,” said Tiffany, “But then, I think that is what makes Genoa so special. I like the outgoing-ness and the stubbornness that you don’t get in a large town. People speak out when dissatisfied or satisfied. People find out that they actually have an impact.”
And then there is the difference about Candy Dance, the biggest community event, whether residents want it that way or not. The dinner and dance tradition started in 1919 with the town ladies making candy to sell as a fundraiser for streetlights. It wasn’t until years later that the successful craft fair was added, overshadowing the community functions.
The Miluck’s have lived in Genoa for 30 years. They’ve seen the Candy Dance grow into a nationally known phenomenon.
“Candy Dance wags Genoa,” said Miluck. “It doesn’t matter what we do in the town, it somehow is tied to Candy Dance. And the net (profit) diminishes a little each year, as we have to take on new expenses. We need to turn it around, back to a pleasant experience.”
“It’s too big,” said Miluck’s wife, Nancy. “With over 300 booths, 26 varieties of candies and the food not as good, it’s lacking in charm.”
Bill Bowersock, the president of the Greater Genoa Business Association, shares some of the Miluck’s viewpoints.
“I’d like to see Candy Dance stabilized with enough room available for the number of exhibits,” said Bowersock. “I think the people that come to Candy Dance would like to see the same thing.”
Dennis White serves on the Genoa town board and is a volunteer firefighter. He also agrees that Candy Dance may have grown so large as to be unmanageable.
“I’d like to see it scaled down to where it was a few years ago,” said White. “It used to have a reputation as having the finest crafts in all of the western United States, but now it is way too big. Many people have stated that they won’t come back. It’s just so darn crowded.”
Bev Smith, an active volunteer, has a different perspective. “Since we’ve been here such a short time, the large crowds during Candy dance seem like the norm to us. I find it exciting that it is nationally known and draws people from everywhere.”
A town seeping in history, even Genoa’s heritage is in the midst of a controversy. It is the site of the first post office, the first court and a long list of other “firsts,” but a few historians have recently questioned the most important claim, as first permanent settlement in the state.
“It’s the historical background brings us together,” said Tiffany. “The houses, the cemetery, the museum, they make this town what we are.”
“The area has a quaintness,” said Bowersock. “The historical district keeps it up.”
“Being the “disputed” oldest town in Nevada pulls us together,” agrees White. “Most people enjoy the history and the old buildings.”
While many Genoa residents are up in arms over the encroachment on their status, Smith spins a different outlook.
“Since I’m not a historian, I’m more interested in what Genoa is, rather than what it was,” said Smith. “I look at what it can be. We have tremendous potential here. And what Genoa already has is that it is a wonderful place to be.”
Smith is what she calls, “half of a chairman” of the Genoa Events Committee. The committee plans year round functions, not only for residents of Genoa, but anyone who wants to attend.
The first Monday of every month the committee hosts a game night at the town hall where people can bring their favorite board games for an old fashioned get together. Monday is swing dance lesson night. Wednesday is yoga. And once a month the Genoa Book Club meets in a member’s house.
“Plus we have three concerts in the park every summer, and pot luck at the town hall for St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving,” said Smith. “All of these events tend to bring people together. When you get right down to it, Genoa is very community minded.”
Yet even the subject of volunteers creates a difference of opinion as people are stretched in many different directions as they plan, organize and participate in the many town functions.
“When the chips are down, we pull together,” said White. “From the flood when people were going door to door asking, ‘Do you need help?’ to the fire department to Candy Dance, our town depends on volunteers.”
“The activities and the people that make them happen define Genoa,” said Bowersock. “The volunteers give a community feel to the town.”
“The younger generation is not geared to volunteer service,” said Nancy Miluck. “Everybody is doing their own thing. And you don’t get unbridled enthusiasm when you do volunteer to do something.”
“Maybe we should be less demanding of our volunteers,” said Tiffany. “Spread the responsibilities around a little bit instead of asking a few to do so much.”
Yet whatever the differences, the residents of Genoa agree on one thing.
“What Genoa has is an unusually beautiful setting,” said Smith. “It draws the people that have a heart for beauty, that have that kind of spirit.”
“It’s attractive,” said Bowersock. “It’s a twinge of New England, very picturesque and very bucolic.”
“It’s hard to put your finger on one thing that makes Genoa special. There are so many,” said White. “But Genoa is unique, peaceful and quiet. Everyone wants to move here.”
“The clean air – I love the seasons,” said Tiffany. “Living here is a continual vacation.”
Bill Bowersock: “Genoa is what small town America probably was – American Gothic,”
Darlene Tiffany: “I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Dennis White: “Controversy seems to get everyone’s attention. There are a lot of different viewpoints in Genoa. A lot of different opinions. And people in Genoa aren’t afraid to speak up. I’d say that is what makes us a community.”
Bev Smith: “We’ve made very good friends. There is a bond. People are here by choice, not because they have to.”
Michael Miluck: “If you live in Nevada, the place to live is Genoa.”
Nancy Miluck: “We were the laughing stock of our friends when we moved here. There were maybe 50 houses and 100 people. Well, guess who is laughing now?”