Visitors traveling through the small Big Horn County communities of Burlington, Emblem or Otto in northwest Wyoming this holiday season are in for a festive surprise.
They won’t have to look that close to see a snowman, then another and another. In fact, every house in Burlington has a wooden snowman in front of it, along with all the businesses. There also are a number of them in Otto and Emblem as well. All told, there are 300 festive and fun wooden snowmen, no two alike.
And they have one thing in common — artist Pauline Parker of Burlington, who created the area’s Community Christmas Celebration. The snowmen are the celebration’s ambassadors.
There are snowmen driving cars, Jeeps and tractors, while others are holding sheep, cows or favorite pets. Some are dressed as superheroes, while others are bundled up for skiing and hunting. There’s even one decked out in University of Wyoming gear.
“Snowmen aren’t offensive to anyone and they make you smile,” Parker said. “People are saying how fun it is to drive around and see the snowmen.”
With none of her children and grandchildren living nearby, Parker wanted to do a service project for the community. So the Community Christmas Celebration was born, featuring carriage rides, crafts, the North Pole and Whoville, a cook-off and tree lighting.
“Last year, the energy in the air was just magical for kids and adults alike,” event volunteer Jenny Booth said. “Everyone had huge smiles on their faces, and it was just a heartwarming community event.”
Wanting to grow the celebration, this year’s event features all of last year’s offerings, including the North Pole. The Grinch will be back to hand out goodies. New is a lighted parade, and the biggest undertaking — Project Snowflake, which aims to create 300 wooden snowmen, at least one for every family to display.
Parker received $600 from the town of Burlington and Tony Nicholson donated wood for the project. The snowmen are a variety of sizes, with the smallest about 2 feet tall and the largest around 4 feet.
Snowmen For Months
Parker started on a few in the spring and then in mid- to late summer began doing special requests for people.
However, the last three months she’s been going almost nonstop. Parker has done other artistic projects in the past, but this is by far her biggest endeavor. For the last two months she’s often painted up to 10 hours a day to complete all the snowmen.
“They're all adorable,” Booth said. “I'm an artist myself, and I swear I could not do the snowmen that she does. She has such a generous heart. It’s very Hallmark-like.”
One of Parker’s favorites is in Emblem and features three families with the town population sign.
“It says ‘Emblem, population 10’ and there's exactly 10 of them,” Parker said. “They're all from the same family. And so I painted the snowmen, according to the colors that they were wearing in the picture.”
For Booth, who has a background with horses, Parker painted a cowgirl.
“It's this adorable little snowman in a pink cowgirl hat and has a little lariat on one of the arms,” she said. “It's pretty cool. She tried to personalize every snowman.”
A Group Effort
Parker said she couldn’t have done it without help from the community, including her husband, who cut out “a million snowmen.” A $10 donation was requested for each to help cover paint and material expenses, but everyone was given a snowman regardless.
Children especially are enjoying the creations. A 4-H group decorated their own and those snowmen grace the Welcome to Burlington sign. Parker also went to visit the kindergarten class at the school, which decorated snowmen on the school fence. Local high school seniors made snowflakes.
“It’s been a good community thing,” she said. “Coming into Burlington from the north, the 4-H kids painted their snowmen in a rainbow, and I thought it was just delightful. They all did a good job painting their snowmen.”
For those who painted their own, including the 4-H group and Wyoming Jeepers Club, there’s a people’s choice contest. Some of the snowmen are also part of a scavenger hunt. Each person gets to keep their wooden snowmen for next year, when Parker hopes to add wooden candy canes.
“My goal is to build on this, and candy canes will be a lot easier than snowmen,” she said. “We’re just having a fun time with it.”