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Published October 19, 2013, 05:06 PM

VIDEO: Moorhead family embraces spider yard display year-round

MOORHEAD - Pure “lethargy” is to blame for Hank and Lynn Tkachuk’s home becoming a neighborhood landmark.

By: Ryan Johnson, INFORUM

MOORHEAD - Pure “lethargy” is to blame for Hank and Lynn Tkachuk’s home becoming a neighborhood landmark.

But they don’t mind the attention commanded by the unusual decoration in their front lawn at 203 Eighth Ave. S.

The house they’ve called home for about 35 years got a major boost of Halloween spirit in 2005, when a large spider statue built by their daughter in 2004, needed a new residence after her family moved across the country.

It made for an impressive Halloween decoration, with eight legs made out of bent pieces of drain tile and a main body and head formed from a precisely pinched and partially inflated tire inner tube.

But its second year at the Tkachuk house changed how the entire neighborhood looked at this Halloween adornment, Hank said.

“I didn’t get around to taking it down right away, and we had an early snow,” he said. “It seemed like it was going to be a pain to take it down, so we put a Santa hat on it.”

The trick worked, and the spider became an effective way of spreading holiday cheer.

But its transformation didn’t end after the holiday lights once again vanished from nearby homes.

“February came, and I made a bow and arrow and we got a set of wings from a dollar store,” he said. “Then it started to get interesting.”

8-LEGGED EVOLUTION

Hank’s procrastination paved the way for a new family tradition as Valentine’s Day came and went, requiring yet another costume change.

The Tkachuks responded by gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day, adding a green spotlight and a large green shamrock necklace. But they knew this wasn’t a permanent fix.

“We began to think of other holidays that might find a spider decorated to be interesting,” he said. “At that point, people started asking what the spider was going to be next.”

The spider has seen more costume changes than a Cher concert over the following years as the Tkachuks came up with themed outfits to celebrate Mardi Gras, Easter, winter, the Olympics and Independence Day.

The spider even dressed for the major flood that threatened the community in 2009, donning boots and a sandbag as a reference to the spider sandbag-filling machine used in Fargo.

“I hope to never use that particular costume again, because I hope we don’t ever have to mock the floods,” he said.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated at their house now – Hank’s grandson and father share a birthday on May 5, so the holiday had to be observed by the spider, he said.

Many of the costumes start as a friendly challenge from one of his children, Tkachuk said. As a present, he received a set of maracas and a large sombrero to make the core of the Cinco de Mayo outfit.

Tkachuk admitted he was “lazy again” with this one, adding a moustache made of black tape. But he’ll probably buy a fake moustache to spruce the spider up a bit next May, he said.

He had to upgrade the spider’s body in 2008, when the original inner tube body finally gave way to its harsh outdoor conditions.

Tkachuk opted to change the design to give it a better chance in the tough elements, building a new head and body out of plywood. He eventually added a back board to make the spider sturdier while hiding the ends of the eight legs, and a coat of water seal means it won’t rot.

The upgrades gave the family new options, including two small eye holes that can be changed to fit the current holiday by adding colored rope lighting to make illuminated eyes at night.

It also made it easier to change the color of the spider to better suit the holiday. A white piece of foam cut to the same shape as the regular black plywood body can be added quickly, making more sense for the “June Bride” costume with a bouquet of flowers and a white veil that marks the popular month for weddings.

Tkachuk’s handiwork gave the spider a new lease on life and prepared it for many more years of hanging out among the bushes in the front lawn. The statue, which stands about 9 feet tall, isn’t very heavy and stays in place suspended from nearby branches with strands of filament and an old electric cord.

But many of the changes simply aimed to make the spider a breeze to update.

“I’ve gotten smart because I’m lazy, so now my costumes are easy,” he said.

A STRUCTURED SPIDER

The spider’s transformation was rooted in laziness, and Tkachuk said it would be a stretch to think his work over the past eight years has been any sort of “goal-seeking exercise.”

“I have fun decorating it, and I do not decorate anything else,” he said. “I just have a spider, and I think it’s fun to do. I hope that it brings a smile to people’s faces.”

Still, Tkachuk has come up with some rules that guide the spider’s constant evolution as they try to celebrate more holidays – International Talk Like a Pirate Day, celebrated each Sept. 19, is a possibility, as is a George Washington outfit for Presidents Day.

The spider will remain apolitical, he said, which means it doesn’t observe Election Day. It also will never have a name – the family simply refers to it as “spider” – because Tkachuk said it shouldn’t have a gender.

“We decided that naming the spider would make it difficult to transcend its identity,” he said.

Still, some of the costumes are clearly gendered, Tkachuk said. A pair of lederhosen makes the spider male for Oktoberfest, he said, while the June Bride costume assumes the spider is female.

Spiders are some of the most feared bugs around, but Tkachuk said he’s made sure this spider is friendly and happy, even during Halloween. Instead of clutching chainsaws and bloody axes, it might be found sporting a large trick-or-treat bag or a festive banner.

“He’s not creepy at all,” he said, laughing.

The spider has generally been well-received, and no one has ever vandalized the large statue that has become a permanent lawn ornament, Tkachuk said.

The whole neighborhood expects it to change regularly now, he said, and when the Tkachuks were out of town this summer, people worried that something was wrong because it stayed the same for so long.

“I guess now I’ll have to put a note up if I’m not changing the spider that says, ‘Designing new costumes – soon to arrive,’ ” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587

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