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Genoa offers a quiet reprieve for residents and visitors—and even a few celebrities.
Photo: Shannon Litz; Jay Aldrich (below)
During most of the 1990s, Christine Adamson was caught up in what she calls the rat race in Southern California. While her busy life in Newport Beach wasn’t all bad, she most looked forward to her once-a-month escape to her parents’ house in Genoa. “I liked the slower, kicked-back pace,” says Adamson, whose parents moved to Nevada from Saudi Arabia. “People there liked me for the things I liked to do, instead of asking me what I did and sizing me up.” Adamson realized she’s a “country girl at heart” and relocated to the Western Nevada town.
Really, Adamson’s story is a fitting encapsulation of the Genoa lifestyle and attitude. Ask anyone familiar with the town why they like it, and you’ll likely get a similar answer. “It’s like stepping into the 1800s,” Dianna Borges says. “It still has [some of] the old dirt roads and buildings dating to the 1850s.” Adamson echoes that sentiment: “I like that stepping-back-in-time feel,” she says. “People ride their horses to the corner store and up to the [Genoa Bar]. Where can you really find that anymore? It’s like a secret spot.”
The town’s long history helps explain this prevailing pride in the Old West. Established in 1851 (the town claims the title of Nevada’s first permanent settlement) by Mormon traders, the area was known as Mormon Station until 1855 when Judge Orson Hyde named it Genoa, for the Italian birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The town’s more than 150 years of existence gives way to historical attractions such as Mormon Station State Historic Park, Genoa Courthouse Museum, Genoa Bar (“Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor”), and a host of other old-time sites, such the Pink House, constructed in 1853 by John Reese, one of Mormon Station’s founders.
This appreciation for history is reinforced in the hamlet’s businesses and events. With her husband, Dwight, Dianna operates Borges Carriage Rides, which also offers horse rides, in addition to sleigh rides in the winter. The family establishment of 40-plus years hosts dinners and weddings and leads historical tours. “I make it more entertaining than your average tour,” says Dianna, who lives in neighboring Gardnerville but does business in Genoa during the warmer months. The company’s hay wagons are used in community events such as Halloween. “It’s safe, and it’s unique,” Adamson says about the fall celebration.
Genoa has some of the most popular events in the state, highlighted by the Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire, held every September, with more than 300 craft and food vendors and thousands of visitors. The event provides a big boost for local business owners like Adamson, who runs Genoa Trading Company. Both Borges and Adamson mention the family oriented Fourth of July Pops in the Park and Sunday Concert on the Green events when asked what their favorite activities are.
Marian Vassar, a dedicated volunteer in area schools and Genoa’s new library, loves the annual Christmas gatherings. “They’re nice home-spun, American, apple pie kinds of activities,” says Vassar, who has been associated with Genoa since 1954, when she met her husband, Kay. She has been a permanent resident since 1994.
Genoa can be a resort destination as well. The area offers three bed and breakfasts, as well as the tempting David Walley’s Hot Springs and Spa.
Even given Genoa’s general national obscurity, it has still managed to attract some notable characters. Adamson’s husband, Marty, worked at the Genoa Bar for more than 20 years and served the likes of John Denver, The Judds, Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, and Charlie Daniels. During the filming of the “Shootist” (1976), John Wayne’s last movie, Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lauren Bacall, and Hugh O’Brian paid to have the bar to themselves. Ann Margaret also visited the town during the filming of her TV movie, “A Place Called Home.”
So does each new celebrity appearance mean that Western Nevada’s best-kept secret is officially out? Some residents would argue yes. “Marty has seen the revolving door,” Adamson says. “He’ll often say, ‘It used to be that I’d work all night and see two cars drive through.’” Of course, Marty isn’t counting all the people on horseback who have passed through. They fit in so well around here, they nearly go unnoticed.
MEET NEVADA MAGAZINE
TOUR AROUND NEVADA
Town of Genoa
P.O. Box 14, Genoa, NV 89411
*Special thanks to Virginia City etching company Botcha-Caloop’s for producing the plaques.
Sunday Concerts on the Green
June 21, July 19, Sept. 13
Pops in the Park
Old-Time Music Festival
Genoa Candy Dance Arts & Crafts Faire
Halloween Party & Hay Ride
“Christmas in the Sierra” concert
More info & events at genoanevada.org