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Waterford’s Mad Scientist: Derek Shepard

Shepard does everything from remaking Volkswagens to painting faces and murals for the annual Oswegatchie play, but he’s most famous for his creative and elaborate holiday decorations.

Derek Shepard likes to stay busy.

“You have to stay busy,” he said. “You have to have a hobby.”

Truth is, Shepard has about ten hobbies. He builds and fixes Volkswagens, he paints everything from murals to children’s faces for the Oswegatchie play and fixes bikes every weekend, just to name a few. But what he’s most famous for is his always-unique visual displays for Halloween and Christmas in the front yard of his Boston Post Road home.

“My daughters, they always get asked, ‘When is your dad going to put (the decorations) up?’,” Shepard said. “So it is like they’re waiting for it too. And that’s just awesome.”

The Story

Shepard isn't the type to sit still. He said he has Attention Deficit Disorder, and in an interview with Patch he talked about his bike-fixing hobby, his remote control car-fixing hobby, his obsession with Volkswagens and most of all, what goes into decorating his home.

He has decorated his home every year for Halloween and Christmas for the past 12 years, and refuses to ever do the same design two years in a row. When he did a Snoopy theme two times in four years – too common for Shepard’s liking – he burnt all the props he used, so he would not repeat again.

He buys most of the decorations the day after Halloween and Christmas, when everything is half-price, for next year’s plan. He said he already had a theme for next year’s Halloween decorations, although refused to reveal what it was, just saying, “There will be a lot of corn stalks, I’ll leave it at that.”

This year for Halloween, he is mostly done, with the idea being a pumpkin patch (he still has to buy the pumpkins). Again, he used a Volkswagen as the centerpiece – he uses a car every time, but never the same car – that he painted orange to look like a big pumpkin, complete with a big green stem on top.

Sometimes he draws out what he is going to do, other times he just does it. But it all begins with a picture in his head, and then he just starts going.

“Usually I do it in one day,” Shepard said. “Everything is one day. I get home from work and by night time, everything will be done.”

He’s done everything from Dr. Seuss to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competing in the primary to the Grateful Dead dancing bears. He longs to do The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, although hasn’t figured out how yet.

So what motivates the 44-year-old roofer to keep doing it? Most of all, that his two daughters, one 14 and one 10, and their friends love it, along with the rest of the community. He has even had thank-you notes attached to his door, and dozens of people come to his house to take pictures of his work.

“It just puts a smile on everybody’s face,” Shepard said. “It is a lot of fun.”

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Michael Denison October 22, 2012 at 11:17 AM
thanks for being so creative. We always enjoy your hard work and can't wait year after year to see what you are going to do. Thanks again for putting a smile on all our faces.

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