Statue in the works to honor Genoa Candy Dance founder |

Statue in the works to honor Genoa Candy Dance founder

Genoa resident and artist Debrine Smedley stands with a clay armature of Lillian Virgin Finnegan at the Genoa Town meeting April 5. Smedley is creating a statue of Lillian to commemorate Genoa's 100th Candy Dance in 2019.
Sarah Drinkwine |

The Candy Dance will mark its 100th anniversary in 2019, and Genoa resident and artist Debrine Smedley wanted to do something special for the upcoming anniversary.

Smedley brainstormed the idea of a seven-foot-tall statue in the heart of Genoa to honor Candy Dance founder Lillian Virgin Finnegan.

“I thought what better way to celebrate than with a tribute to the first volunteer and founder of the Candy Dance,” she said. “Many people know about the Candy Dance, but not many know the story and history of it or even of Lillian.”

Smedley and project chairwoman Gail Teig dug deep into Genoa and Carson Valley archives to get a better understanding of who Finnegan was and what she did in the community to capture her image for the monument.

“She was the most beautiful, most kind and helpful girl in Carson Valley,” said Smedley.

The Genoa Candy Dance was started in 1919 to raise money to purchase and maintain streetlights for the town. It was Finnegan’s idea to host a dance and make and sell handmade candy to the guests. With the help of many volunteers, the event not only provided lights for the community but became a successful annual event that provides a substantial portion of Genoa’s annual budget to this day.

“The statue is a tribute to all those volunteers, not just Lillian,” said Smedley. “Without her or all the volunteers, there wouldn’t be a Candy Dance. The volunteers are the ones we are honoring — they are the ones who have made the event last 100 years.”

Smedley presented her idea to the Town of Genoa in October with nothing more than a sketch of Finnegan and some background of her and the Candy Dance.

She received approval to move forward with the project, and by early this year, Smedley had created a small clay armature of Finnegan. She presented it to the town at its April 5 meeting.

“It really touched my heart,” said board member Steve Shively. “This is going to be a beautiful project for Genoa.”

The next step is deciding on a location. Sites being considered are next to Genoa Town Hall or next to the kiosk by the hotel on Main Street.

Board member Linda Birdwell said before the sculpture can be placed, preparations have to be made to whatever site is chosen.

“She’s going to be beautiful anywhere we decide,” she said.

Board member Pat Eckman said the statue will be a nice addition to the town and appreciates everyone involved with the project.

The project will take the next two years to finalize.

“That includes the site location and rendering of the area, plus creating the life-size sculpture,” said Smedley.

Teig said not only is Smedley the one designing and creating the statue, but she is involved in everything down to the plaza design and location.

“Debrine is the biggest volunteer here,” said Teig. “This is her legacy to the town and we are very appreciative of her, her work and what she is giving us.”

Several fundraising events are planned for the project, including purchasable engraved bricks and plaques that will surround Finnegan at the final location. Bricks can be purchased starting at $200.

“Right now, we are trying to get the word out of Lillian and what to expect of the next few years,” said Smedley. “We want everyone to be involved and to let those volunteers know that this is for them and the community.”

Friends of Genoa, the Town of Genoa and the sculpture committee, comprised of Smedley, Teig and Smedley’s husband Larry, are driving the project.

For more information or to make a donation call Teig at 790-4231.