Welcome to the home of fairies, gnomes and Bigfoot

By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

A dead tree has brought new life to a Grafton neighborhood.

Now, the yard of Roy and Maria Spielbauer and their children at Audubon Avenue and West Birch Street slows traffic, stops walkers and yields photos galore.

The family has turned a remnant of an ash tree into a fairy and gnome garden that enamors their neighbors and all sorts of passersby.

Next-door neighbor Morgan McCraw, 11, was instantly captivated when she saw the display from the car.

“I gasped,” she said, and told her parents, “you’ve got to let me out of the car.’ This is such a great idea.”

Her sister Mia, 9, also loves the decorated stump.

“I like how many colors there are,” she said.

The endeavor began four years ago when the tree, once a proud, tall and broad shade provider, died. Roy took it down one branch at a time with the help of his son. When the tree was chopped to about seven feet, Roy looked online for ideas on what to do with it.

“I wanted to make something of it,” he said. His wife Maria already had a plan.

“I told him to cut it on the bottom so I could put in a flower pot,” she said.

Her husband thought bigger.

He said, “Why don’t I build you a gnome and fairy tree house?”

Maria is from the Philippines, where “e don’t have this kind of stuff,” she said.

The design isn’t new; Roy saw plenty of examples on the internet and he already had multiple sports-themed gnomes in his basement. But his family’s version outdoors is different.

The initial design with gnomes and fairies took about a week. A few pieces grew to a few more. Bigfoot arrived in year two, courtesy of an Amazon gift card from Roy’s company. Once he saw that the statue of the beast was carrying gnomes, he made the purchase.

It’s his favorite piece. “I think the Bigfoot is funny,” Roy said. “That’s the one that always falls down after wind storms. That’s what the neighbor girls are for. They come and fix it.”

The spectacle sits partially on the McCraws’ yard. Roy asked them if it was OK, and they gave their stamp of approval and more.

Wind had blown over the McCraws’ wooden fence, and Roy asked if he could use part of it for the display. Pieces of it serve as the roof on the stump and the base for a tree house on a large branch.

The displays change each year, although the trio of wine-drinking fairies that light up at night remain on their log. A birdhouse was recently added, and that’s not the only draw for feathered friends. Morgan filled the birdbath with water last week.

A unicorn was added because Mia loves them. 

Roy and Maria’s children get involved as well.

Troy, 21, grew up doing crafts and projects such as Pinewood Derby cars in Cub Scouts with his father.

“I was pretty excited when he found the idea,” he said.

“I like how it looks overall, how it fits together.”

Kristen, 29, helped with the initial setup and jumps back in once per year.

“I usually take over during Halloween,” she said.

She adorns the display with cobwebs and other spooky decor. The fairies and gnomes don’t mind.

“They stick around,” Kristen said.

Wood chips fill the ground of the attraction, and stone leftover from the rest of the yard creates the border.

Deer visit check out the attraction, and so do people driving by.

Last week, a father stopped the car so his daughter, 3, in a car seat could see the neighborhood draw.

“‘My daughter has to stop every time. There’s something new each time,’” the father told Roy.

The rest of Spielbauers’ yard has a collection of flowers that Maria tends.

This isn’t the first time their landscape has received attention. When they lived in Glenview, Ill., while Roy was in the Navy, they received a yard-of-the-month award twice.

Now, the Spielbauers live in Wisconsin year round. Their yard residents, however, do not.

“They go away in November. They go down to Florida and chill for a few months,” Roy said. “They come back in April with my birthday in April.”

Morgan said, “That’s my favorite part.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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