Megan Gardner and Taylor Pope’s pandemic pet project has turned into a full-blown pastime.
They call him Posty. He’s been a postal worker (hence the name), a cyclist, a wedding guest and a Jedi. He’s been the Virgin Mary. He’s been both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. He’s a large, blue, inflatable dragon. And he’s not alone.
Posty is one of around a bevy of creations spreading delight on Redwood City’s Fernside Street and beyond, thanks to local couple Megan Gardner and Taylor Pope.
“People are very positive about the dragons,” Gardner says. “We’ve gotten to meet our neighbors. We really enjoy the community that it brings.”
The journey of the Fernside Dragons started a few years ago.
“I’ve always liked dragons,” says Gardner, who grew up as a self-described nerdy, fantasy-loving kid with a creative spark. She dreamed of turning a Christmas dragon she’d bought at Home Depot into an Easter one, but the project was on the back burner until she and Pope suddenly found themselves with a lot of time on their hands.
“I don’t know if you remember,” she jokes, “but a few years ago, in March of 2020, we all lost our minds because we were locked in our houses for weeks at a time with no idea of what to do.” She and Pope (who both have tech-industry day jobs) heard people were putting up outdoor decorations to entertain socially distant neighbors as they took walks around the block. Soon, the COVID-19 First Responder Dragon – wearing gloves, a nurse’s hat and a mask, and carrying rolls of toilet paper – was hatched in their front yard.
“Everyone in the neighborhood loved it,” she recalled. What if, she wondered, they could build more dragons from their own pattern? Gardner was confident in her sewing skills and had made many costumes, but had never worked with inflatables before. By ripping apart that first modified Home Depot dragon, which became worn out after many weeks of exposure, they were able to figure out the basics, employing some trial and error along the way. Their first complete original was Fourth of July Dragon, but because the fabric they’d gotten wasn’t air impermeable, it wasn’t able to fully inflate and stand up.
“It was a sad, wilty dragon,” Gardner says. She was dejected, but Pope wasn’t about to let them quit, and their efforts continued (the best material, they’ve found, is nylon ripstop from outdoor suppliers, used in high-quality tents and sleeping bags.)
Posty, the very versatile fellow who’s (literally) worn many hats over the years, was next, and the menagerie now includes the peg-legged Pirate Dragon (Capt. Redwing), Thanksgiving Dragon, Original Valentine’s Dragon, St. Patrick’s Day Dragon, Easter Dragon, Second Fourth of July Dragon, Vaccine Dragon (complete with inflatable syringe), Second Valentine’s Dragon and Dragon Con Dragon, plus three baby dragons and a fourth on the way. Over the past few years, the crew has been dressed up for Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Earth Day, Father’s Day, Pi Day, Inauguration Day, the Olympics, back-to-school time and more.
Pope says he’s especially fond of Posty and Capt. Redwing, noting that the latter was partially a birthday gift from Gardner to him, as he loved tales of pirates as a child and his birthday falls close to Talk Like a Pirate Day in September, for which Gardner has been known to hook up a baby monitor to the captain and speak to passersby in pirate voice.
It takes around 40 hours to make a full-size dragon and about 17 hours for each baby. Gardner estimates making about three or four a year at this point. She has a long-term goal of building a full, dedicated dragon Nativity scene, but says that may take her the better part of a decade. Baby Jesus Dragon, though, is already made (“He has a gold belly, to make him holy,” she noted).
Interactivity has become an integral part of the dragon project as it evolves. St. Patrick’s Day Dragon provides chocolate coins, while the Valentine’s dragons offer cards and have a mailbox at which they can receive affectionate messages from fans.
“We got so many notes from the community. People saying, ‘We love your dragons, they’re amazing, thank you for what you’re doing.’ We got cute little drawings from kids, we got full-on letters, somebody wrote us a story,” Gardner says, remembering back to the first Valentine’s Day of the COVID era. “At a time when I felt so isolated, it just meant so much to me and it really motivated me to continue to work on this.”
Pope has designed several dragon coloring and activity books, which are handed out at special events including the popular Appreciate a Dragon Day in January, at which the full lineup of dragons is on display. He’s also given away baked goods, stickers, dragon pins and other treasures, and the dragons can sometimes be seen at the Redwood City Farmers Market.
For events that happen off-site, Gardner has developed wearable versions, most notably Dragon Con Dragon, modeled after the purple-and-yellow dragon logo of the Atlanta pop-culture convention the couple attends each year. Kids love to give the costumed Gardner high-fives and hugs when out and about.
You may be wondering, do the Fernside Dragons have any relationship with Redwood City’s longtime king of festive and whimsical yard decor, Dug the T-Rex? Happily, they’re all pals.
“We brought our dragon over to take a picture with Dug when he had the kissing booth,” Pope says. They also got together for a “Stranger Things”-themed Halloween photo shoot, and more collaborations may be in the works.
“We’re very happy to be in the neighborhood that we’re in, and be in the city we’re in, that celebrates this fun and funky neighborhood art,” Gardner says. “It brings joy.”
Follow the adventures of the Fernside Dragons on Instagram @fernsidedragons.