Willow Bill: The herd is all grown up | NevadaAppeal.com

Willow Bill: The herd is all grown up

Willow Bill

The willow reindeer are ready to be checked.

It is year 21. The Willow Reindeer program is come of age, now allowed to drink and gamble in the Silver State — it is an adult.

Nearly 50,000 children of Northern Nevada have signed their names, drilled in a screw into a willow sculpture, learned a bit about manners and respect, were drilled about safety over and over.

Safety was the No. 1 rule.

The lessons of building a willow reindeer are peppered with math problems. I get the students to achieve and surpass the curriculum often. Spelling, geography and more. They learn what types of willows and the states they are from, mixing the silver, green, yellow and red sticks. Getting them to memorize, remember which willows are from what state.

Each and every child is pulled into this program by a father who cares.

Throughout the hour lesson, words of sharing, caring and looking after each other are spoken with passions. Back and forth they go in what some call "the coolest hour of elementary school." Then as the face is formed in the 50th minute of the class, it all comes clear, they've done it: a reindeer.

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I always ask, "who wants it?"

They all raise their hands including the teacher.

And with the only answer I could give I say, "None of you get to take it home. How about we share it with the world."

As a team now they will sign the reindeer with a black Sharpie claiming ownership of their artwork to be displayed with all in the attempt to create the nation's largest art protest.

I need to thank all of the herdsman and woman who have helped the last two decades.

To everyone who has run an electrical chord to help light our children's' artwork.

To Gov. Brian Sandoval for officially recognizing the Willow Reindeer program.

To the school districts, teachers and staff.

To the businesses for donating lights, rebar, tape, zip ties and more.

To Jasimine Whitbeck who when she was 2 1/2 years old with her arms crossed asked "how come you don't make reindeer?" She started it all.

The annual checking of the herd is this weekend. Yearly about 10 percent of the reindeer lose their lights and need replaced. With the new deer, about 300 sets of lights will be needed this year. I need your assistance, this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the parking lot of the Carson City Fire Department on Stewart Street.

On Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. will be the Carson City wrapping party. At 10 a.m. Nov. 23 will be Carson City distribution. At 10 a.m. Nov. 24 will be the Douglas County distribution. At 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 will be the Douglas wrapping party.

For information, call me at 775-842-3594.

William "Willow Bill" Goulardt runs the Willow Reindeer project.