McAvoy Lane: Mark Twain Days

McAvoy Layne

McAvoy Layne
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I have never had so much fun in a white suit. Carson City’s inaugural Mark Twain Days banged anything I ever struck, and it’s thanks to one lady. Debra Soule, arts and culture programs manager, had the vision. Good managers manage. Great managers inspire, and Soule inspired a stellar staff, along with an army of volunteers, to stage perhaps the best Mark Twain Extravaganza the world has ever seen.

First the good mayor, Lori Bagwell, jumped in with both feet, as did Ronni Hannaman, executive director of our Chamber of Commerce, followed by dozens of power houses, artists and merchants.

Then they got the kids involved with a writing contest for middle and high school students. These kids wrote awe-inspiring articles and took some intriguing pen names, “Richard Hoskins” and “Jeremiah Lawer,” to mention a couple of winners. And a young Tom and Becky came all the way from Hannibal to put on a touching skit, the engagement scene out of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

For us adults they offered a literary workshop, conducted by none other than Nevada’s own Poet Laureate Gailmarie Pahmeier.

The intrepid Mary Bennett conducted, “Madam Curry’s Walk in Sam’s Shoes,” a tour of Carson’s historical sights and the Clemens home that Julian Smith and his family have preserved with so much tender loving care.

The V&T Twain Cocktail excursion was an adventure unto itself. Bob Gray, RIP, and his son, Tom, can be proud of the little engine that came down from Virginia City, and hauled us up for a party at Piper’s that will never be forgotten. The band that greeted us, “Nut ‘n Fancy,” knocked the spots out of any music I ever heard.

A Chautauqua performance at the Nashville Social Club featured Mark Twain meeting Nellie Davis (the inimitable DebiLynn Smith) and wouldn’t you know, the notorious Julia Bulette, as personified by the incomparable Kim Harris. People are still talking about those girls.

The Bowtie Ball at the governor’s mansion brought out the finest company in the Silver State, and when Jeff Leep struck up his mighty band, well, everybody jumped out of their seats onto the dance floor. The mansion was rocking so hard the kitchen crew came out to see what the heck was going on. Even Mark Twain tried out a few new steps that were peculiar to him and the kangaroo. One critic chided, “Sam, those who criticize your writing never saw you dance.”

The picnic and sack race on the state Legislature lawn got kids of every age going, and got me to laughing until my ribs were wracked. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on a half-dozen of those newly-minted Mark Twain Medallions.

David Bugli closed out the three-day extravaganza with a Carson City Symphony performance of “Becoming Mark Twain,” that I missed, only because I was at home curled-up in a ball in my white suit, asleep. There was more, so much more, though I see I am fast running out of space, but I cannot wait for next year’s Mark Twain Days…


For more than 30 years, in over 4,000 performances, columnist and Chautauquan McAvoy Layne has been dedicated to preserving the wit and wisdom of “The Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope,” Mark Twain. 


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