The bears - a mother and two cubs - actually arrived in Santa Paula more than a year ago. “They sat around here at the ranch” before being installed by family and friends on October 11, 2008 (photo by Don Johnson).

Wilson’s bears prove to be interactive hit with Floating Granite Ball

January 16, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesPeople have become used to seeing parents and their children frolicking near the Floating Granite Ball at Railroad Park, but there’s a new family unit drawing attention: a mother bear and her cubs, just the latest attraction provided by the late Roy Wilson Jr., who spearheaded the Granite Ball and bears projects and provided much of the funding, along with family and friends.“My dad hired Eric Richards,” the creator of “The Warning” sculpture just west of the Floating Granite Ball,” to craft the model for the bears, said Chris Wilson. “He cast them in hard plastic, then that model went to China, where the bears were actually carved full-scale” from rich black granite.Wilson said the effort was coordinated by Gary Jackson of and, who created the Floating Granite Ball at his Apple Valley-based company that specializes in monuments to time that survive for centuries.The bears - a mother and two cubs - actually arrived in Santa Paula more than a year ago. “They sat around here at the ranch” before being installed by family and friends on October 11, 2008, when “We had a 140th birthday party... my stepmother Barbara turned 90, and I turned 50.”One of the last public appearances by Roy Wilson Jr. was when he appeared before the City Council in March 2007 to gain approval for the donation of the bears near the Floating Granite Ball, which had been dedicated in September 2006. Wilson and the Rotary Club had led the campaign for the Floating Granite Ball - which can be twirled with a gentle push of the hand - and received supplemental funding from the city, but he wanted even more interaction for park visitors.A Past Rotary President, Roy Wilson Jr.’s father was a founder of the Santa Paula Rotary Club. “My father’s interest in the whole thing was seeing the enjoyment that children especially get out of it,” first the Floating Granite Ball and now, said Chris Wilson, the bears.
“Kids are climbing on the bears and appreciating them. Dad’s whole thing was providing something for them to experience, and this is one more thing for children to check out.”The mother bear is one piece that Wilson believes weighs 7,000 pounds, and the cubs weigh in at “I think a few thousands pounds.” Now Wilson is hoping “some replanting” of trees will be done at the park.With funds left over from the bears account there’s another community project on the horizon. Wilson said funds will be spent on “some touching up of the garden” in front of the Chumash mural at Blanchard Community Library. “Next year is the library centennial, and we’re going to try to spruce that up, too, with money left over from the bear fund; buy some plants” and install them with the help of Susan Stephenson.At the time the Floating Granite Ball was dedicated, Roy Wilson Jr. said the fulfillment of his decade-long dream represented a “real demonstration of pleasure... it’s almost indecent.” One can only wonder what he would say, now that the second part of his dream, the interactive bear sculpture, has proven to be so popular.

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