Tour Around Nevada: Minden and Gardnerville
July – August 2015
Together or alone, twin towns are twice as nice.
BY MEGG MUELLER
Laurel and Hardy. Batman and Robin. Simon and Garfunkle. Bogie and Bacall. Synergy occurs when two equally exceptional sides join to form a whole; the result is more than just the sum of two parts but an entirely new creation. Minden and Gardnerville are separate, unique, and rich towns, and for the last four rounds of 2015 Tour Around Nevada, they have been in the Top 5 each time. This time, however, there was no mistaking the outcry for these two towns, and despite asking folks to vote for their favorite town…our readers rarely voted for just one, so congratulations to Minden, and congratulations to Gardnerville.
“They go hand-in-hand with each other,” A.J. Frels, executive director of the Carson Valley Visitors Authority, says. “Along with promotions and attractions, the towns are sitting right next to each other so it’s hard to know when you go from one to the other. But they just work so well together.”
Settlers poured into the bucolic Carson Valley as early as 1841, but the towns took their time informing. Gardnerville is the older sister; it was developed in 1879 when Lawrence Gilman purchased property from town namesake and early settler John Gardner. Minden began stirring in 1856, when young rancher H.F. Dangberg bought his first property. Dangberg donated land and eventually convinced the V&T Railroad to house its terminus in Minden in 1905, and the town incorporated shortly thereafter. There’s just no point rushing perfection.
Like much of Nevada, many of the towns’ first non-native settlers were of European descent, but Minden and Gardnerville also were home to a thriving Basque population. Today, restaurants such as the J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room still serve a bustling clientele, while the Overland Hotel—opened in 1902 by Basque settlers— is undergoing renovations and plans to reopen as a farm-to-pub restaurant this year. The history of the Basque people is integral to the towns’ futures, also.
“We’re looking to see how we can bring more of that to the forefront. How that would tie into some of the things we’re doing in the future,” A.J. says.
No view of the future is without a look at its past; so protective of its small-town authenticity, a McDonald’s wasn’t built in the town (Minden) until 1982.
HOME ON THE RANGE
The Carson Valley made an obvious stop for many settlers as they migrated west. Lush, verdant fields spread as far as the eye can see against the high, jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Pine Nut mountains. Farmers and ranchers are still abundant here, as they were when the valley was first settled.
The rich, fertile land is home to Corley Ranch and Jacobs Family Berry Farm, just two companies that grew successful businesses from the ground up. Blind Dog Coffee, Alpen Sierra Coffee Company, and Killer Salsa are among the other food-based companies that make the valley their home.
Ranching gave birth to the annual Eagles and Agriculture event, which gives photographers and visitors a chance to tour valley farms in order to see the raptor migration that occurs during calving season.
DOWN ON MAIN STREET
One of the reasons for the area’s homey feel is Main Street Gardnerville program. Part of a national program, the nonprofit group’s mission statement is clear: “Experience the Past, Enrich the Present, Embrace the Future.” From flower baskets adorning light poles to a community garden, Main Street Gardnerville works to enhance the beauty and viability of its downtown area.
“Members of the community come together to make it happen whether it’s a promotional event, a special project, or through financial support,” Paula Lochridge, Main Street Gardnerville program manager, explains. “If the community supports it, it thrives. Our supporters take great pride in our downtown and it shows.”
Business owners and residents have come together to preserve and create the area’s engaging atmosphere, and the results are catching. Minden is in the process of becoming part of the national Main Street Program, too.
The complementary aspect of Minden and Gardnerville is as much by design as serendipity. For special events, such as Carson Valley Days, Christmas, or Fourth of July celebrations, the participation is carefully blended for maximum fun.
“Gardnerville will do a run in the morning and the chalk competition,” A.J. says about the Fourth of July party. “Then Minden will do a parade around the park. They work together.”
Although team spirit often rules, each town has features that make it a stand-out in its own right.
In It Together
Minden is home to the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park, where four generations of Minden’s founder lived. Much of the family and Carson Valley history has been preserved, and the ranch today has a park where live music and many other events happen during the warmer months. The Minden-Tahoe Airport is a general aviation airport that is home to some of the coun- try’s best soaring, thanks to unique thermal patterns and the outrageous views afforded by the valley and Lake Tahoe. Minden Park—located in the center of town and the heart of its social gatherings—hosts strong performance and visual arts as well as summer concerts in the park. The Carson Valley Inn—one of the larger casino-hotels in the area—is in Minden, as is the C.O.D. Casino—built in what was the oldest car dealership in Nevada.
Special events are no stranger to Gardnerville’s Heritage Park. Movies in the Park; Blankets, Burgers & Brews; Oktoberfest; and Carson Valley Christmas Kickoff are all held here. Gardnerville’s Main Street is packed with boutiques that offer treasures not found at big box shops, like the more than 250 wines at Battle Born Wine shop, or a piece of history at one of the four antique shops. Gardnerville is also home to the recently revamped Sharkey’s Casino. From the views to the small-town feel to the history and the charm, Minden and Gardnerville have an appeal that is undeniable. For A.J., however, the appeal is something much more organic.
“People ask me what the best asset is in our area. It truly is our people,” A.J. says. “We have gorgeous scenery and mountains but it’s really our people and the love for the Carson Valley.”
Carson Valley Visitors Authority
1477 U.S. Highway 395 N. Ste. C
Gardnerville, NV 89410
WORTH A CLICK
Nevada Magazine will visit one Nevada community per issue and present the town with a Tour Around Nevada plaque and commemorative cover. The towns covered are determined by reader vote! Send your vote to [email protected] with the town and “Tour Around NV” in the subject line. Ely, Las Vegas, Reno, Tonopah, Minden, Gardnerville, and Virginia City are excluded. Voting for the September/October 2015 issue closes Friday, July 10.