For 15 years, Willow Bill has worked with children in Carson City and surrounding communities to create what he calls the nation’s largest art project.
Now he needs the public’s help to light it up.
“It’s a community-enhancement project,” he said. “I’d like to see the community get involved.”
“Willow Bill” Goulardt in 1998 began making willow reindeer with students in Carson City elementary schools. In the beginning, he was making 16 a year.
This year, he plans to visit 157 classrooms in Douglas County, Washoe County and Carson City schools, with each class making its own reindeer. By the end of last year, he had amassed 857 reindeer made by students from willow sticks.
He expects to have 1,000 by the time he’s finished this season. Each reindeer is signed by all the children who worked on it, collecting about 32,000 names over the years.
Each reindeer is wrapped in Christmas lights and displayed along U.S. Highway 395 from Gardnerville to Reno, with a group surrounding the Capitol Christmas Tree as well.
“We turn it into something really special when we put it along the highway,” Willow Bill said. “It affects a lot of people in a positive way.”
Over the years, some of the lights have begun to fall off, he said.
“Sooner or later,” he said, “the lights go out. You have to re-strand them.”
He’s organizing two parties at the Carson Mall — from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday and 2-5 p.m. Nov. 9 — to bring people together to help wrap reindeer in lights.
“If I get 20 people down there, in an hour and a half it would all get done,” he said.
White lights will be provided. Donations of red and blue lights will be accepted.
He also is looking for volunteers to help set up reindeer at businesses along U.S. 395.
“There’s an experience there,” he said. “It’s fun. How many people get to work with Santa? It’s Santa’s reindeer.”