The coronavirus put a damper on nearly everything. Folks struggled to put a smile on their faces while not being able to leave their homes. Arcadians John Besser and Candice Gohman decided to do something about it and turned their front yard into Bear and Minnie’s Many Adventures.
Candice and John’s home is located at 42nd St. and Hazelwood. It became a stage where stuffed animals Minnie, Bear, Baby Bear, Kong, Coco, Patty Star and friends would act out fun scenarios such as watching a football game, fixing a bicycle or celebrating a holiday. People driving, biking or walking by can see a fun surprise when passing the house.
John and Candice are transplants to the Arcadia area and have lived here on and off for almost 30 years.
“We love the environment; the green grass and large trees,” Candice said. “The people in this area are also some of the happiest. Everyone is friendly, and chitchat seems welcomed by people. About 10 years ago, we moved from Arcadia to Union Hills and the 101 – the neighborhood was not as friendly, so we were back after 12 months!”
The pair run a property management company, and Arcadia is a central location for the business.
“The time the commute added had a huge impact on our quality of life,” Candice said. “We work the whole metro area, and Arcadia is a 20 to 40-minute trip to just about everywhere we needed to go.”
Bear and Minnie’s adventures came as a result of their granddaughter’s stuffed animals taking up space.
“We only had Bear and Minnie at the beginning, and they are pretty big. I needed to vacuum, and the weather was so nice, so I would open up the French doors on the front of the house and place Bear and Minnie looking outside,” Candice said.
One day, Candice noticed cars were slowing down as they passed their house, and parents were rolling down the back windows so their kids could look out and see the stuffed animals. In March, when the pandemic forced people to quarantine at home, Candice and John decided that everyone could use a little bit of a happy feeling – with no “strings” attached.
Candice explained, “The happy look on the little face of the child on the driver’s side of the car got me thinking, how could we keep giving them ‘the happy’?”
Due to the pandemic, Candice was out of work and needing something to keep her busy.
“I love solving problems and figuring out what to do with Bear and Minnie was a problem I could solve. Bear and Minnie also solved my problem of not having something outside of myself to do,” she said.
John and Candice explained that some of the themes were planned, while others were thought of on the spot. Some of the ideas sprouted from what the neighborhood, state and world were going through.
“Stuff like working from home, science class, daycare, protests and the household maintenance,” John said. “When Bear and Minnie took the gang for a bike ride, it was inspired by a large group of people, parents, and children that would ride by daily.”
Most of the animals are Isabel’s – John and Candice’s granddaughter – but a few belong to their youngest daughter, Elizabeth, or they are Candice’s, collected from over the years. A few were even added to complete Bear and Minnie’s Adventures.
The pair say that most themes take around two hours to set up, though some themes take longer, depending on how intricate they are.
“The chess match took the longest. We were up building the board until about midnight – and up again at 6 a.m. for the staging,” John said.
John’s favorite theme happened on May 23, when the animals escaped from quarantine. This came after the shutdown ended, and they had to “evict” the group from the front room for Isabel’s first birthday. Candice’s favorite was the tea party on April 6, which was the first time Bear and Minnie were set up.
“I was not prepared for the largely positive reaction, and that fed me,” Candice said. “The response has been amazing and unexpected. We have met more people than we have in the seven years we have been in this home, and even when Bear and Minnie are not out on the lawn having an adventure, they are always in the window and still have visitors coming by to see what is going on.”
“It has meant as much to us as people tell us it has meant to them. We hope to continue this as long as possible,” John said.
Bear and Minnie have their own Facebook page so people can stay updated on their adventures. John and Candace plan to set the gang up during Halloween and Christmas, so if you’re in the area, keep your eyes peeled for Bear, Minnie and the rest of the group.
For more: visit Bear and Minnie’s Many Adventures Facebook page.