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Woolbert the baker made his parents proud at Saturday's "Menagerie of the Imaginary" opening at Story Mill Community Park. The bright blue woolly mammoth presented his baked goodies and a secret recipe to the families that strolled by.

Seven-year-old Juniper Cooney said Woolbert was her favorite of the 14 displays dotted throughout the park because he was fuzzy and her favorite color. Juniper's younger brother Nolan also liked Woolbert the most because "his tusks were extra long."

Mimi Matsuda, the artist who built Woolbert, explained that ever since the mammoth finished his training at the Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, he's wanted his parents to see his accomplishments. This was why he keeps a framed portrait of his parents next to his array of baked goods, she said.

The little portrait allowed Matsuda, a painter by trade, to incorporate her usual medium into the sculpture. She used "a lighted outdoor Christmas animal," duct tape, bubble wrap, safety pins and other recycled materials to create the piece.

"It was really cool to go through this process thinking about how to transform these materials," she said.

Building life-sized sculptures was a challenge for many of the 15 artists who contributed to the menagerie, said Danielle Thomsen, the "CEO of silly business" for Random Acts of Silliness, a local children's theater and immersive arts company.

The self-guided pop-up sculpture exhibit came from a collaboration between Thomsen and Jamie Saitta, a recreation manager for the Bozeman Parks and Recreation Department. The two were inspired after Thomsen launched a "Flutterby Thicket Fairy Village" along the Gallagator Trail this fall with the help of local artists.

“When we heard the vision for this project, we knew right away we wanted to be a part of it!,” Saitta wrote. “We hope it will bring tremendous joy to people of all ages when they need it the most, and will spark a sense of wonder and excitement in everyone who visits.”

Artists commissioned for the exhibit were tasked with building “whimsical, silly, colorful” three-dimensional sculptures to display at the Story Mill Community Park throughout the month of January. It was a crazy ask, but "whimsy, delight and joy are the main goals of the artists and sponsors of the exhibit,” according to Thomsen.

The organizers settled on hosting the exhibit at the Story Mill Community Park because it gives families plenty of room to spread out. All people are required to wear masks at the exhibit when social distancing isn't possible.

Many of the exhibit's artists departed from their usual two-dimensional mediums to create work that could withstand wintry conditions.

Kaetlyn Able, a painter, said it was challenging to build "Blossom," her papier-mache bun-bun-alope — so she could survive the cold nights. It was also hard to keep Blossom from looking creepy or scary, she said.

"I wanted to make something that I would have loved as a kid," Able said.

Saitta said the Bozeman Parks and Recreation Department is introducing new Rec2Go kits this month. The kits give kids fun activities to complete at home. January's kit, which families can buy for $12 off the department’s website, will include "Menagerie of the Imaginary"-inspired activities and crafts.

“We’ve all been through so much. It’s really important to provide children with opportunities that give joy safely,” Saitta said. “Programs have had to look different during the pandemic, but we’re dedicated to providing meaningful experiences for children to enjoy.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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