On Thursday, August 20, the Village of Siren will welcome a very special guest - a world-famous bear! No, not Yogi Bear, Smokey Bear or Winnie the Pooh. It's Bubba, the dancing bear, a larger-than-life animated puppet created by Minneapolis-based theater artist Christopher Lutter Gardella.
Bubba will perform between 1:30 -and 4: 30 p.m. at Crooked Lake Park as part of Open Air Siren, a summer campaign designed to bring a safe, outdoor, family-friendly activity to the greater Siren area and to promote local businesses.
Bubba is world-famous because a video clip of his performance at on Gardella's front lawn in the Powderhorn neighborhood aired on Minneapolis KSTP Channel 5. "Then neighbors posted the video to social media which went viral and circled the globe," he said. "I received Facebook friend requests from around the world." As to reaction on the block..."The kids went wild-- only one very small child was a little bit scared."
Some people might remember Chris from the 2014 Jordan Buck centennial when he lead a community art project to create a human-powered animated giant replica of the national (and, at the time, world) record white tail deer harvested by Jim Jordan of Danbury. The puppet has appeared annually in Webster's July 4th parade and at other special events.
Gardella actually has roots in the north woods, having attended Northland College in Ashland and he says he enjoys returning to Burnett County. In addition to the Jordan Buck project, he worked with Webster High School summer school students to create sunfish for the Village of Webster's 2016 centennial celebration and with Siren High School arts class to create a huge puppet of their dragon mascot powered by a dozen students.
As the founder, artistic director and general manager of Puppet Farm Arts, a non-profit arts education organization and his Big Animal Productions business, Gardella's trademark is his use of recycled industrial and commercial waste materials to create his "Big Animals. The mission of The Puppet Farm, said Gardella "is to improve the health of human communities and the Earth by teaching people the process of transforming waste materials into imaginative art."
"For Bubba, I used nine different waste materials including wire fence scavenged from a farm, tent poles and lawn chairs, window screening, blown-out bicycle tires and tubes, couch cushions, and, for his eyes, mahogany wooden spheres from Africa," he explained. As for Bubba's success, Gardella said, "It proves, once again, that big animal art is a healing power in these uncertain times, bringing lots of smiles, laughter, wonderment....and UPLIFTMENT!"
To find out more about Open Air Siren events and to view the Bubba video clip. visit Facebook Siren, Wisconsin. The events are free and open to the public at Crooked Lake Park on St. Rd. 35 in Siren.