One by one, Willow Bill called each of teacher Barb Martin's pre-first-graders into the center of the circle to help assemble a willow reindeer to be displayed at the Capitol.
"I like the reindeers," said Kyle Gutierrez, 6. "It's nice for our governor. He makes the laws. He'll like everything about it."
"Willow" Bill Goulardt spent Tuesday helping Bordewich-Bray Elementary School students construct two of the eight reindeer to be unveiled during Thursday's tree-lighting ceremony at the Capitol. The reindeer will remain on the lawn throughout the Christmas season.
Goulardt will work with students at Jacks Valley Elementary today and Seeliger Elementary students Thursday.
He began making willow furniture in Carson City 10 years ago and now owns a furniture business, Wonderous Willow Works, in Oregon. He travels around the West to share his creations.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, his work has taken him ever farther from home. After his best friend survived the East Coast terrorist attacks, Goulardt wanted to show his gratitude.
He built a heart-shaped love seat from willows collected from Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and New York.
It was placed beneath a grove of willow trees in the La Plaza Cultural Center gardens in Manhattan under a plaque that reads, "For those to rest within love."
Plaza officials are flying Goulardt to New York this holiday season to make reindeer with the children there, similar to the program in Carson City.
Goulardt arrives with a sack full of willow branches. He forms the branches into shapes then the students drill in a screw to hold the pieces together.
"I got to make the legs," said Raelynn Mitchell, 6. "I drilled the thing in."
When it comes to the important decisions, like which branches to use as antlers or which way the reindeer should face, Goulardt lets the students vote.
"The reindeer horns are cool," said Dakota Machal, 6. "They're really tall."
Codey Colorado, 6, was pleased with the collective decision to make the reindeer face forward.
"I like the reindeer mouth," he said. "It has the woods that go that way."
Goulardt is working on a project to line 75 miles of the Oregon coast with willow reindeer. He has completed 28 miles.
IF YOU GO
What: Silver & Snowflakes Holiday Tree Lighting
When: 5:20 p.m. Thursday
Where: Capitol grounds, 101 N. Carson St.
Schedule of events:
1 to 8:30 p.m.: Santa and his reindeer at Telegraph Square.
5:20 p.m.: Combined Elementary Choir, CMS Red Hot Bell Peppers
5:30 p.m.: Santa arrives in a 1926 Model T
5:45 p.m.: State tree lighting by Secretary of State Dean Heller and his family
5:55 p.m.: Remarks by Mayor Ray Masayko
6 p.m.: Candlelight procession to the city tree at Musser and Nevada streets, songs by Chorus of the Comstock and the Home School Singers
6:15 p.m.: City tree lighting
6:30 to 9 p.m.: Downtown businesses open