By the Waitsfield library, people may have noticed an unusual figure propped up in the snow. Some call him Rusty the snowman. He has as a horseshoe smile and a whiskey barrel belly. And he’s not alone: Rusty is one of 13 recycled metal snowmen scattered around town.
Made by Troy Kingsbury, owner of Village Grocery, these 13 snowmen can be found all over Waitsfield, from American Flatbread to the fire station. Those who find just 11 of the 13 snowmen by the end of the month could win a cash prize of $50 from the VG. “People only need to find 11 snowmen to enter for the prize,” said Kingsbury.
The idea to make a snowman scavenger hunt started with a few old whiskey barrel rings that needed recycling. People frequently bring their recyclable metals to Village Grocery, which has a big metal recycling dumpster in the back. Kingsbury opened this recycling system, which he calls A&J Recycling, last fall to get more people into lower Waitsfield.
“I was looking for ways to bring more traffic to the historic part of Waitsfield Village, ’cause I care about my neighbors. Like we have the farmers’ market over the summer, but none of the shops down here get any business from that. So, I thought, what can I do? I opened A&J Recycling. Now, instead of going to the other side of town, people can stop here to recycle. And while they’re here, maybe they’ll stop in,” said Kingsbury.
Kingsbury doesn’t mind having a dumpster out back, because for him it’s not a dumpster at all; it’s a treasure chest of creative material. “I pull junk out of the dumpster and make stuff with it. If you look at our gas canopy, you’ll see maple leaves. I did that.” Kingsbury pointed to an area just above the gas pumps, to a beautiful canopy of intricate metal maple leaves hanging at the tips of thin metal branches.
Although he wakes up at 4:30 in the morning for work and spends evenings helping his kids with homework, Kingsbury somehow manages to find an hour or two during the day to escape to his welding room and work on creative projects. It took him two days to complete the snowman project.
Like many of his ideas, Kingsbury’s snowman idea came from a desire to bring people together. “It’s just a way to engage the community. It makes people look around. Looking for the snowmen, you might discover neighbors or new businesses,” said Kingsbury.
Helping other local businesses is especially important to Kingsbury. “I have a community-based business plan. I never see anyone as competition. Everyone should be able to work together. If you can help people be successful all around you, all ships rise together,” he said.
The snowman scavenger hunt will continue until the end of the month, and maybe even longer, depending on who wants the snowmen next. “If someone wants to borrow them or use them for their own project, they can!” said Kingsbury.
With the snowmen finished, Kingsbury has moved on to other projects. Lately he’s been designing lamps. “I think everybody needs a creative outlet. We all do the same stuff all the time. I follow a regular work schedule. So, for me to grow as a person, I need that creativity.”
Whether people are out for the cash prize or not, looking for the snowmen is a great way to have fun in The Valley this month. Keep your eyes peeled! Many of Rusty’s brothers are hiding in plain sight.