Downtown Genoa was transformed into the center of the creative world Saturday as tens of thousands of people streamed through a crucible of 320 craft, art and culinary booths.They came empty-handed. They left full-handed. In a stagnant economy, in a divisive political season, the 92nd Candy Dance Arts & Crafts Fair still managed to draw enormous crowds under a blazing autumn sun. But why?Answers to that question were as diverse as the goods hanging in every booth.For sisters Debbie Sherfield, 59, and Lesley Schmidt, 51, of Washoe County, the scenery itself provides an idyllic experience beyond the daily grind of life. Where else can they see pastures sweeping to the stoops of 19th Century homes, or a black horse grazing beneath an apple tree? “It feels like you're getting out of town,” said Schmidt. “The sunshine, the food, the relaxation. The mountains are so close.”The sisters have been attending Candy Dance for 18 years. “It's a nice girl outing: No husbands, no kids,” said Sherfield. “We don't make plans for anything else this weekend.”The annual event is more than a getaway, though. It's a crucial fundraiser for the Town of Genoa, filling the majority of the town's coffers rather than traditional ad valorem tax revenue. The namesake dance was Saturday night. And approximately 2,500 pounds of homemade candy, responsible for the other half of the name, was sold all weekend.On Saturday morning, Sherfield and Schmidt were interested in another popular food item. “The taquitos,” said Sherfield, when asked what she looks forward to most. “Homemade taquitos with guacamole.”The sisters were also looking for this year's “hot ticket item.”“Every year it's something,” explained Schmidt. “You'll see people walking out with it in droves. You just got to find it. It's fascinating.”While Candy Dance draws visitors from all over the western United States, it's also a mainstay for locals.“Since I moved here, it's just been getting bigger and bigger,” said 44-year-old Johnson Lane resident Wayne Kremer. “I always pick up candy in the morning because it sells out quick.”Kremer has been coming to the event for 14 years, but it was the first time he brought Zero — an 8-month-old, fluffy-white Samoyed.“He's loving it; he's getting all this attention,” Kremer said. “For me, what I look forward to, is the variety, the food and beer.”But those prized items of the festival wouldn't be possible without people willing to sell their work. Since the recession started in 2007, Candy Dance, among other fairs, has provided interesting opportunities for people to reinvent themselves.Sparks resident Michelle Molnar was a commercial escrow officer for 30 years before the recession hit. This weekend was her second year at Candy Dance representing her new business, the Bread Basket, which she created four years ago.“This is a good show, one of the best around,” she said. “There are a lot of people here.”The Bread Basket offers homemade specialty breads, jams and other canned goods. Big sellers this time were sweet potato bread with cream cheese filling, vanilla Nutella bread, red velvet and Kahlua varieties. The company's barbecue sauce and pickled Brussels sprouts were also hits.“The whole town converts into a craft show,” Molnar said. “That's what's so fun about it.”Greg and Barbara Bartlett of Twin Falls, Ida., have been coming to Candy Dance for 10 years to promote Bartlett Art Works.Their handcrafted yard art is hard to miss. On Saturday, at the corner of their booth, stood a 14-foot-tall kinetic wind sculpture. Made of oxidized steel, the towering sculpture had three fountain-like branches, each bearing 36 hand-formed cups to catch the breeze. “Each sculpture is a one-of-a-kind piece, something unique and different,” Barbara Bartlett said. The couple attends 40 shows in eight states every year, and Candy Dance is among their favorite fairs. “The town does a wonderful job organizing it,” Bartlett said. “They take care of their vendors. They are very kind, considerate and inviting.”The Candy Dance tradition has personal meaning for the couple as well. Their anniversary usually falls sometime during the weekend. This year, they were celebrating 27 years of marriage. “We've made a lot of dear friends here,” Bartlett said. “This is a great place to spend our anniversary.”Not surprisingly, her answer to the question of the event's success focused on fellow human beings. “The enthusiasm of the people,” she said, explaining what compels her to return. “That folks still enjoy getting out.”All routes through Genoa will be closed starting at 7 a.m. today. The town will reopen after 5 p.m.Parking is $5 at the end of Genoa Lane or along Foothill Road from Muller Lane. Shuttles from Carson Valley Inn or Douglas High School in Minden cost $2. The first shuttle will leave Minden at 9 a.m., and the last will leave Genoa at 5 p.m. More than 200 volunteers make Candy Dance a reality every year.
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