They have been holding the Candy Dance annually for 90 years in the unincorporated town of Genoa, Nevada, 22 miles east of Lake Tahoe and 42 miles south of Reno. Now called the Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire and held during the last weekend in September, it brings as many as 50,000 visitors to this tiny town with a population of 250.
The Candy Dance began in 1919 when Genoa residents decided they wanted some of those newfangled streetlights. The locals thought holding a dance would raise enough money. To attract cowboys, the ladies spread the word they were making candy to sell at the dance.
After all those beans and bacon on the prairie, cowboys develop a sweet tooth, and they showed up in droves and emptied their pockets. The town happily counted the take and put in streetlights. Then came the first electric bill. That was a bit of a shock. So the Candy Dance became an annual event.
These days the Candy Dance raises money for most of the town’s expenses for things like roads, snow plowing, and yes, electric bills.
The arts and crafts fair will be held this year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 25-26. The dinner and dance will be held Saturday at the Genoa Town Park, with dinner starting at 5 p.m. and the dance at 6:30. Last year 700 people attended the dance, in addition to the thousands who turned out for the accompanying fair.
And, yes, there is always candy. The homemade candy booth was thronged last year and promises to be even more so this year. Toffees, crunches, fudge, you name it, the locals had it, all homemade, all reasonably priced.
Folks flock to Genoa not just to enjoy the dance and fair but also to see the colorful old town itself. It was originally called Mormon Station because when the Nevada territory became official and the Gold Rush began, Brigham Young sent someone to set up a trading post that sold supplies to those about to cross the Sierras into California. The Utah War made Young recall his settlers. But this became Nevada’s first town, and as the town grew, an elegant little courthouse was built and now serves as a charming museum. The town’s first judge admired Christopher Columbus and renamed the town after Columbus’ birthplace in Italy.
A statue in the center of the town next to the reconstructed trading post honors Snowshoe Thompson, who crafted skis in 1856 so he could carry the mail in winter across the Sierras from Placerville to Genoa. Thompson carried the mail for 20 years and became known as the father of skiing in California and Nevada.
Genoa was the home of the state’s first “thirst parlor,” still standing and doing business as the Genoa Bar—a colorful tourist attraction itself, offering cold beer and warm welcomes.
The fair that surrounds the Candy Dance for two days is the main draw. There’s entertainment, good food and above all, vendors, with 300 booths creating a town within a town. From prospectors selling their minerals and gems, to elegant handmade clothing including handmade leather ten-gallon hats, everything you can imagine is for sale.
Parking is in nearby fields where local ranchers provide space and directions for a small fee, and the town provides shuttle buses to get the candy-hungry into the town. No vehicles except emergency and official vehicles are allowed on the streets for the Candy Dance.
There are two RV parks in nearby Minden: the Carson Valley Inn RV Resort, and the Silver City RV Park Resort. There’s a casino at the Carson Valley Inn for those who want more than candy.
For information on the Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire, visit genoanevada.org.
Andrea Granahan is a writer who lives in Bodega, California.