TEMPLE TERRACE – From snowmen to gingerbread trains, Mary Grevencamp has made them all – one large cardboard box at a time. Maybe you’ve seen her work: for years it has been displayed around Woodmont Park during the holiday season
“I don’t think she ever eats or sleeps and she is always very willing to help and to give whenever there is an opportunity or she sees a need,” said friend Ona Jack.
Grevencamp’s large-scale holiday decorating career began when the city’s garden club was preparing to host the first “Sunday in the Park,” held at Woodmont Park, and she noticed it needed some holiday pizazz.
The former president of the Temple Terrace Garden Club decided that rather than put more responsibility on her fellow members she would fashion some festive embellishments on her own.
Snowmen, snowwomen, gingerbread cookie types, gingerbread houses, lollipops and trains are among the mix of handcrafted Christmas decorations she has created, and still does. In addition, she, with the help of her husband, Ted, deliver and precisely place the objects in their designated spots throughout the park.
“Mary is a phenomenal person and she does such a great job with the things she makes,” said Cori Collins, recreation supervisor/programing at the city’s leisure services department. And Collins should know – after viewing many of the decorations Mary made, Collins enlisted her volunteer service herself.
Since most of the decorations only last a season – due to either soiling or weather damage – Grevencamp finds herself beginning the process over again each summer.
Her contribution of Woodmont Park holiday decorations ranks high on the list of the community’s most treasured seasonal traditions.
“I don’t consider myself an artist – they’re just fun to make,” said Mary. The whole process begins nearly six months out as she begins collecting cardboard boxes and recycled Styrofoam from a variety of resources.
Her husband said every year neighbors can easily recognize when his wife begins accumulating materials for her annual undertaking.
“We have to park one of our cars in the driveway because our two-car garage only has space for one,” Ted said.
Her favorite things to make are the gingerbread houses, which entails painstakingly layering small pieces of cut-to-size cardboard pieces made to look like shingles.
“She started out making just one and because it turned out well, she ended up making three gingerbread houses,” Ted said. “She’s all happy with herself when things turn out right.”
Mary, a self-professed night owl, does most of her crafts after the midnight hour.
“I like doing them and it keeps me out of trouble,” she mused.
Judy McConville, who identified herself as Mary’s “elf” friend and fellow garden club member, said she has offered Mary a bit of assistance with her park decorating project from time to time but emphasized the majority of the work remains in Mary’s capable hands.
“We’re just so grateful to have her and her creativity and her love for making the park such a pretty place at Christmas time,” McConville said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]