Minden Centennial

We spent a little time in Minden Park yesterday for the Minden Centennial celebration. There wasn’t a whole lot going on so we didn’t spend all day there, but we did get to see a ton of speeches, a couple of pitstops on the campaign trail, an embarassing accent, and people lined up all the way around the park for free food. All of which happened in the stifling 90+ degree heat and sent us running for the car almost as soon as the noon whistle blew.

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A crowd gathers to listen to speeches and proclamations.

Congressman Jim Gibbons was on hand, and he gave a short speech and presented a US flag that had previously flown over the Captiol Building in Washington DC. He spoke about how the entire state of Nevada is jealous of Minden and their small-town atmosphere. Which is a charming sentiment but has to be filtered through the fact that he’s running for governor right now, and is probably stopping in towns all over the state and giving the same speech. And he wasn’t the only candidate represented there; I saw a group of people wearing Dina Titus t-shirts, and Bob Beers actually brought his entire tour bus and entourage. Gibbons was the only one who actually got to speak, though, so as a political rally it ended up being kind of one-sided.

I hate to be cynical, but do you really think all these candidates turned up just because they love Minden so gosh darn much?

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A few tents were set up for shade, but only enough for the early comers.

After Gibbons was gone, they brought out the real star of the day, H.F. Dangberg Sr. Despite the fact that he died in 1904, two years before Minden was even built, and despite the fact that he was introduced as H.F. Dangberg Jr., his son, who was the one who actually founded the town, he seemed very spry and chipper as he and his wife dismounted from their horse-drawn carriage and took the stage. And it was all fine until he started to talk.

Now, I know that H.F Dangberg was born in Germany and emigrated to the Carson Valley, and so he probably spoke with a German accent until the day he died. But the actor portraying him, Mike Fischer, might have been better off sticking with an American accent. Because I’m not sure what dialect he was speaking in, but there’s no way it could be confused for German. I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what it sounded like for about 24 hours now, and I just can’t do it. It was like somebody with one accent doing a bad impression of some other accent. It was like something you’d hear in a Florida retirement home. It was like something I heard from the comic sidekick in some old movie. It was bad to the point of being distracting, to the point where we were laughing and weren’t even paying attention to what he was saying. And I’m not saying that the actor was particularly bad, I just think he needs to brush up on his German before he tries this in public again.

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Everyone else had to crowd around under the trees, or risk sunstroke on the grass.

So while that was going on, rather than stay there and start a wave of infectious laughter rippling through the crowd, we headed into the cool sanctuary of the CVIC Hall, where they had several historic displays set up. This was probably the best part of the whole centennial, old black and white pictures of town scattered everywhere with timelines of each of the buildings. If you’re going to celebrate the Minden That Was, there’s no better way to do it than pulling out the old pictures. I put together a separate page devoted just to these displays in the CVIC.

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They did spring for this record-sized birthday cake.

By this time, things were starting to wind down for us. The heat and the sun were just too much, and in the hour we’d been there nothing had impressed us enough to convince us to stay. There was the promise of music later in the day, and ice cream, and a ride on a fire truck. But once we heard the familiar noon whistle blow from the fire station, and saw the line for lunch snaking out to the sidewalk and wrapping around the gazebo, we knew it was time to go.

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It wasn’t until noon, when the free lunch started to be served, that people perked up.

I’d say, though, that the best thing Minden got out of the centennial is also the most permanent. Over the last month a series of historic plaques has been installed all over town, just like the ones that Gardnerville has had for a couple of years. So now when you walk around downtown, and you walk through the residential district surrounding the park, each house and each building has its story, etched in bronze, right there for you to see. It’s really a great thing, and the accompanying brochure and walking tour are also well done. It lets people stroll around town and really understand what they’re looking at.

So now Carson City, with its Blue Line plaques that give nothing more than the name and year of the house, is the one lagging behind in the Historic Walking Tour department. Looks like Carson needs to get on the ball and start making some new plaques, since Gardnerville and Minden both are leaving it in the dust.

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Supposedly they served 1,800 lunches that day. The line wrapped at least halfway around the park.

So happy birthday Minden. Your party may have been a little lame, but you’re not.

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