Three characters from Genoa’s past return Friday |

Three characters from Genoa’s past return Friday

by Caryn Haller

Because history shouldn’t always be learned through books, the Friends of Snowshoe Thompson are presenting “An Evening of Chautauqua” 6 to 8 p.m. Friday in the Genoa Town Hall.

Mark Twain, Snowshoe Thompson and Pony Express rider Warren Upson will reminisce about their adventures in 1860 Genoa.

“It’s an entertaining way to learn history where people can put themselves into the history by seeing the actual historic person, and getting to know them as a real person,” Chautauquan Kim Copel said. “It will be a nice, family-friendly event that lends itself to all ages.”

Copel portrays Pony Express rider Warren Upson.

The Genoa resident serves on the advisory board of the Lake Tahoe Historical Society and is a volunteer with both the Lake Tahoe and Douglas County Historical Societies. She also serves on the advisory board of the Nevada division of the National Pony Express Association.

“Our history and our understanding of it, is an important key to the prosperity of our community, not only in the present but in the future as well,” Copel said.

Her character is one of the lesser known of the three, but was an important part of the Pony Express. Upson delivered mail, messages and express between Sportsman Hall at Pollack Pines, Calif., and initially Genoa, but later only to Fridays Station at Stateline. Unlike most Pony Express riders who chose their horses for endurance and speed, Upson chose his horses for surefootedness. Many times he would have to dismount and walk his horses through the treacherous Sierra terrain in blinding snowstorms, while near the sides of canyons.

“He was regarded as one of the bravest riders of the Pony Express, and one of the most skilled,” Copel said.

McAvoy Layne portrays the ghost of Mark Twain.

Lane has embodied the spirit of Twain for more than 24 years performing at venues from Leningrad University in Russia to Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City.

He is the ghost of Samuel Clemens in A&E’s biography of Mark Twain, and in the Discovery Channel’s, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” He is a winner of the Nevada award for excellence in school and library service, and author of a soon to be published memoir, “Becoming Mark Twain.”

“It’s like being a Monday through Friday preacher, whose sermon, though not reverently pious, is fervently American,” Layne said.

Steve Hale portrays legendary mail carrier John “Snowshoe” Thompson.

For nearly two decades Thompson used hand carved 10-inch oak “snowshoes” (later known as skis) to travel back and forth to carry the mail and supplies between Placerville, Calif., and the isolated community of Genoa. The stout Norwegian routinely did the roundtrip in five days twice month all winter for nearly two decades.

Hale portrays Thompson in character and costume around the Lake Tahoe region where the native Norwegian lived most of his life. “Snowshoe” spoke at the 2011 dedication of a statue in his likeness at Squaw Valley Village and at the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Snowshoe Thompson statue in Genoa. As a former recreation and education specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, Hale volunteers regularly for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Carson Valley Trails Association, Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Trout in the Classroom program, Friends of Snowshoe Thompson, and other civic organizations.

Tickets for “An Evening of Chautauqua,” are $10 adults and $5 for children under 12.

Proceeds benefit Friends of Snowshoe Thompson and the Town of Genoa’s Concerts on the Green.

For more information call 315-7777 or 220-0605.


What: An Evening of Chautauqua

When: 6-8 p.m. Friday

Where: Genoa Town Hall

Cost: $10 adults, $5 for children under 12

Info: 315-7777 or 220-0605.