Students participate in nation’s largest art project |

Students participate in nation’s largest art project

by Caryn Haller

Under the supervision of Willow Bill, Gardnerville Elementary School student Sky Miller helps make a willow reindeer in a previous year.

As each student added a new piece to the project Tuesday, classmates cheered and applauded as 20 sticks of willow were transformed into a reindeer.

The Gardnerville Elementary fourth-graders were part of the Willow Reindeer Project where students create reindeer that are placed along Highway 395, and in front of businesses, state buildings or private residences from Gardnerville to Reno.

“As this is the 15th year, four governors have been in office,” founder “Willow” Bill Goulardt said. “We are talking nearly 10 percent of Nevada’s statehood has had these willow sculptures adorn the Capitol Building.”

This year close to 800 reindeer will be lit up in front of more than 175 businesses.

“It’s so fun and awesome that you can make a reindeer out of wood,” 10-year-old Jordan Watts said. “It’s fun to learn about Willow Bill, and see how to make the reindeer.”

Payton Miller, 9, wasn’t a stranger to using power tools, having built a playhouse with her dad before.

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“I like using power tools because it’s fun, and I don’t get to do it very often,” she said. “Building the reindeer was fun because it tickled your hand when you pushed the button. I know when we build it, Willow Bill will be able to sit on it.”

Goulardt mixes safety, math skills, manners, Native American education and language skills in with the building process of each reindeer.

“It’s good to intermittently punctuate your day with enjoyable things,” teacher Ed Hammond said. “Then the kids have a mixture of fun and stretching their minds.”

Sage Hubkey, 9, enjoyed using the drill.

“It’s fun. They vibrate in your hands,” she said. “I’m excited to see how it’s going to turn out.”

When completed, each reindeer is autographed by the students in the classroom.

“I was born to do this,” 10-year-old Jaxin Daniels said.

None of the sculptures made in the classrooms are available for sale. Goulardt makes others throughout the year, and sells those at the Carson Mall in Carson City.

“As of this Christmas, 30,000 kids of Northern Nevada will have made a willow reindeer in their respective classrooms,” Goulardt said. “Our kids and adults are the ones that take care of this project which is what has let us grow it into the largest art project in the United States.”

To keep this project going Goulardt is asking for donations at Search Willow Reindeer Project.

“I encourage people to support the project because the kids love and respect it, and take care of it,” Goulardt said. “This project lifts the spirits of many adults that get to enjoy it as a proud parent or as a business owner. I want to thank Stewart Indian Colony and Carson City Downtown Redevelopment Project.”

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