Editor's note: Vote here for Weaver's house — one of 24 national finalists. The grand prize is $100,000 for Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified.
Finding Cielo Circle in Rohnert Park is made easier during December by the nighttime glow from what the locals call Weaver’s Winter Wonderland. For the 16th year, Scott Weaver has gone all out to create a magical landscape of Christmastime imagery, populated with fairy tale characters and seasonal childhood fantasy.
The house is a finalist in the contest, and voting continues all week to earn first prize, $100,000 for local schools.
“We would love to get the $100,000 grant,” said supervisor . “If we were to win we’d come up with some way to involve the school community to suggest ways to use the money.”
“I basically started making characters out of wood cutouts,” Weaver told me on Sunday when he began to dismantle this year’s decorations. “Then one neighbor said she wished she could draw, ‘cause she’d make Winnie the Pooh. And I said I’ll just make one for you.
“And that just started the whole thing.” Characters on Weaver’s own house and those of his neighbors include not only Winnie, but nearly every Disney character including Mickey, Donald, all the Dalmatians and a giant Blue Genie, plus Woody the Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones, multiple Santas, elves and angels, even the South Park kids.
“We’re a diverse culture here at Weaver’s Wonderland,” he said when I mentioned Dougie, Pip and Cartman. “I try to represent everybody. No discrimination here.”
This year Weaver’s decorative cartoon panels were on display at 22 neighbors houses, both on Cielo and the neighboring streets. But this holiday passion is but one expression of .
There’s a boundless spirit at work inside the 51-year old family man, who’s day job is as produce manager at the – he’s worked for Lucky’s in Marin for 33 years, since dropping out of the College of Marin after a couple years of higher education. His artistic education is largely self-taught, however.
His most celebrated project, which he calls “his life work,” is Rolling Through the Bay, a 100,000 toothpick sculpture of San Francisco which is not just a novelty but a functional artifact with four “tours” through the amazingly detailed work. Drop a ping-pong ball in one of the tour entry points, and the ball falls, spins and whirls through a miniature Bay Bridge Tour, Mount Tam Tour, Golden Gate Tour, or Montgomery and Powell Street cable car tours.
The nine-foot high work is currently a featured exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and will probably become part of the permanent exhibit of the San Francisco Exploratorium when it moves to Pier 15 in 2013.
The video that the Exploratorium made of Weaver displaying the kinetic piece has been viewed 200,000 times on YouTube, and brought him a certain degree of pop culture fame. Even if you haven’t seen this amazingly detailed piece in person, check out the video to get some idea of Weaver’s engineering genius.
“Conan O’Brien teased me on his monologue,” Weaver said, not without pleasure. “He said this guy from Rohnert Park, California built this giant toothpick sculpture. ‘It took him 35 years. Now he should build a sculpture of him getting a life’.” He laughed along with the joke. “It’s an honor to get ripped on by him. I would love to show him what he teased me about.”
But Weaver is first and foremost a family man, and his 20-year old son Tyler attended (and is currently at Santa Rosa Junior College, with plans to attend Sonoma State University). High school students help Weaver construct and take down his holiday display every year, earning some of their required 40 hours of community service in the process.
“They get to learn how to use a screw gun, and help me carry stuff – a lot of the labor in setting up is moving hundreds of 2x4s from the back yard to the front yard and helping shuttle things down out of the attic and out of the garage,” he said.
“That’s why I really love that this is for the school district,” Weaver adds. The $100,000 prize from Patch is earmarked for local school district, and the artist is not the only one who hopes it wins.
"We’re making sure that we provide a core education in the schools," said schools supervisor Haley. "But there’s so much more we could do!”
He added, “Even though the Board of Education would make the final determination, if we were to win we’d come up with some way to involve the community to suggest ways to use the money.”
Haley pointed out that the has a link on its home page to vote for the Weaver house. “I sent out another email blast two nights ago. At this point if you’ve had a connection to the schools, you’re aware of the Weaver house!”
For Scott Weaver, the benefit to the schools is only too appropriate. By being one of the 24 finalists, he’s already won $500 to offset his utility bills for December – which he said totaled $1500 last year. “But I’ll donate that $500 to the schools whether or not I win,” he said.
What’s next for Weaver? “I’ve wanted to build a couple other sculptures, but that one is really my life’s work,” he said of Rolling Through the Bay. “It’s hard to find 3,000 extra hours. I probably won’t have the chance to do one quite that extraordinary.”
I’d like to do maybe a self-portrait, or maybe one of my wife. The human body would really be tough. There’s no straight edges, people would be blown away… I’ve also thought doing one of a dolphin, like a 7-foot dolphin, much easier to do than a human body.”
Still, between Rolling Through the Bay and the Weaver’s Winter Wonderland, Scott Weaver’s place in the whimsical culture of Rohnert Park, and Sonoma County, is secure. “It’s been a labor of love for all those years. I never once thought, I should make this bigger and make some money off of it. It was all just to build it, you know?
“Now people are just enjoying the fact that it has moving parts and was built for the fun of doing it,” he says of his masterpiece.
Yesterday night, Weaver turned off the lights of his 2011 Winter Wonderland, and will start tomorrow working with students from Rancho Cotate to take it down - until next year.
People can do more than just appreciate the photos and videos of his Winter Wonderland, though – they can vote for it every day and help win $100,000 for area schools.
That’s a reward everyone can share.