Indiana woman's cartoon cutouts bring joy in time of unease

Posted4/18/2020 7:00 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Nancy Gouloff-Grabner's collection of plywood character cutouts weren't created for springtime.

Shrek and Donkey, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Sven and Olaf instead were made to delight trick-or-treaters along West Sherwood Terrace amid a landscape of pumpkins and fallen leaves.


But as others began placing teddy bears in windows and rehanging Christmas lights to provide lightheartedness and hope during the coronavirus pandemic, Gouloff-Grabner knew her piled-up Halloween decorations also could provide a welcome reprieve.

Her neighbors agreed.

Various fictional characters '" including those from 'Shrek,' 'Scooby-Doo,' 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Frozen' '" have found temporary homes in lawns near Foster Park.

'They're all out,' Gouloff-Grabner said last week. 'Everything I have is now scattered around the neighborhood.'

Bev Zuber, the Wayne Township assessor, was thrilled to welcome the 'Scooby-Doo' gang and their Mystery Machine to her yard. The decorations make for a natural photo op.

'It just brings happiness,' Zuber said. 'The kids come running up, and even adults have come running up.'

Megan Chapla is now used to children checking daily on her house '" er, yard '" guests, Shrek and sidekick Donkey. She said she enjoys giving the kids something consistent to look forward to during this uncertain time.

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'It's just been a ton of fun,' Chapla said.

If she had had a choice, Tracy McMenimen said she would have picked 'The Wizard of Oz' crew for her yard, but somebody got to those first. That's how she ended up with characters unfamiliar to her, those from 'Despicable Me.'

McMenimen encourages families to pause for a photo with Gru and his minions.

'It breaks up the day for the children,' she said.

Gouloff-Grabner's character cutout tradition began about 13 years ago when her children '" now 19, 22 and 24 '" wanted to decorate for Halloween, and she had a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of plywood to spare.

'I'm pretty handy with the jigsaw,' she said.

Gouloff-Grabner sometimes draws the figures by hand, but she also uses a projector to get the shape and proportions right. Her sister, Jeanni Musgrave, has helped with painting, she added.

Some notable characters are missing from the wooden sets '" such as Anna and Elsa from 'Frozen' '" because Gouloff-Grabner and her family dressed up as them for Halloween, she said.


Gouloff-Grabner's decision to pull the decorations out of storage has brought more than whimsy to the neighborhood as COVID-19 forces people to stay home, said Zuber, the resident hosting Scooby-Doo.

'I think it's a great illustration of the (468)07 community and how we stick together and will do this together. We'll get through it,' Zuber said.

She described Gouloff-Grabner as the perfect instigator for the effort.

'When Nancy does something,' Zuber said, 'she does it well, down to the last detail.'


Source: The Journal Gazette

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