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Life-Sized “Yard Decorations” Great Sideline Business
“We started with a star on top of a grain bin. It soon became a second business and we’re still at it 30 years later,” say Gene and Shirley Wilson, who run the business on their farm near Elmwood, Ill.
    Their custom-designed decorations are made from welded-together, 1/2-in. sq. aluminum tubing and include everything from tractors to cars, pickups, 4-ft. tall logos, and animals. The decorations are supported by steel posts and fitted with either rope lighting or taped-on miniature light bulbs.
    “Over the years we’ve made 3 or 4 different kinds of cars, including a full-size 1959 Cadillac that’s 21 ft. long. We’ve also made pickups, a Longhorn steer, buffalo, deer, swans, eagles, Nativity scenes, stars and crosses, 2 different types of big Christmas wreaths, and bows,” says Wilson. “I try to show all 4 wheels of my tractors, cars and pickups in order to give them a 3-D look instead of just a silhouette.
    “The customer tells us what he wants, and then I get a photo or drawing of it. I take the photo or drawing to a local shop where they use a computer to make a full-sized paper pattern of it. I set the paper pattern down on my workbench, place the aluminum tubing above all the lines, and follow them as I start cutting with my radial arm saw. Once all pieces are cut and bent I start welding them together. I constantly have to put out fires in the paper caused by hot sparks from the welding torch. When I’m done welding, there’s not much paper left.”
     Sometimes getting the pattern takes a little extra work. “I had to go to a local Deere implement dealer to get the measurements for my last tractor,” says Wilson.
    He uses rope lighting on anything that doesn’t require a lot of detail, and miniature lights on the full-size designs. “We may use 1,000 to 2,500 miniature lights to get the desired look,” says Gene.
    Wilson says a lot of people don’t realize how long it takes to make such decorations. “I spend 2 weeks or more making some stuff, and the older I get the longer it takes. Sometimes I go to flea markets or craft shows, and if I see something I like I won’t argue with the artist on price. That’s because I know how much time he spent to make it.”
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Gene and Shirley Wilson, Christmas Lane Originals, 8220 N. McClellan Rd., Elmwood, Ill. 61529 (ph 309 742-8151; swilson@elmnet.net).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6