|Ketchup Packets are one of the few things you can still get for free. Each one contains about a tablespoon of ketchup, so you usually end up with quite a bundle when you ask for ketchup.|
|The sauce packet bear emerged from a discovery that ketchup packets burst open when you hit them with a BB gun. Leif and I shot a few in the kitchen one night. I got a remarkable bloody mess. I was intrigued, and set about designing a better bleeding target.|
|I decided on an attacking Polar bear. I wanted to build him before my 4th of July (1999) party, so I began collecting as many sauce packets as I could. Eric, Rob and Helen helped add to my stockpile. Within weeks, I had hundreds of packets, although I didn't count them until later. Taco Bell made the greatest contribution, because the bins of sauce-packets are very accessible. Carl's Jr. made the second-greatest donation. They got accustomed to me asking for ten ketchups when I drove-thru.|
|As July approached, I started fashioning the bear. I first collected bear photos from the net and drew up some designs. I bought some Pine 1x2s and chicken wire. I screwed together a giant, lightweight frame. The bear stood 8 feet tall, which is correct for a Polar bear. I decided that white skin would show the ketchup best (yeah, yeah, the Polar bear's skin is actually black, blah blah blah). When the frame was finished, I wrapped it with chicken wire to form giant arms, legs and a chest. For the head I filled a grocery bag with crumpled newspaper and molded its form with masking tape.|
|Instead of using paper-maché to build the skin, I wrapped the chicken wire with plastic film (I stole this idea from Ambur). It only took about an hour to wrap the whole body. I couldn't believe how much easier this was than paper maché! My neighbor Greg gave me a huge roll of industrial green packing film and I used a ton of it.|
|The green film stretched over the hexagonal chicken wire gave his body a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" scale-effect, but I figured the sauce packets would obscure that nicely. I had planned on using hot glue to attach the packets but I tried Super77 spray glue and it worked well. I counted the packets as I covered every inch of the bear's front: 812 packets total. It would be impossible to miss them when I unloaded my BB gun into its snarling face.|
|With the packets in place, I cut crepe paper to size and glued that on top of the packets. This creme-colored paper would provide a backdrop for the streams of ketchup I envisioned spewing from him.|
|I finished the bear in time for the party. The highlight of this street party was the remote-control racing with fireworks attached. People love that stuff! The bear stood on the sidelines, prompting a constant barrage of "Are you going to burn that bear?" and "Does that bear explode?" questions.|
|As darkness fell, I carried the bear into the middle of the street, and lit it up with a halogen work-light. Dozens of onlookers were ready to be entertained.|
|The bear didn't work out at all. Leif and I began shooting into his chest and face, but nothing happened. The BBs weren't piercing the packets. Apparently the chicken-wire frame was too flexible, allowing the frame to absorb the force of the BBs. I shot about 30 times at the bear, only breaking two packets. I had hope when I hit one soy-sauce packet, and the crowd reacted with "oooh!" Unfortunately, that was the last one to break. The crowd grew restless, and things soon got out of control.|
Someone began chanting "burn it, burn it" and it caught on fast. I knew that burning it would be a total let-down, because it was made of sauce and flame-proof paper, but I couldn't get those packets to break. I needed a shotgun (for the crowd and the bear). While I reloaded my gun, a guy in the crowd put a firework in the bear's hand, and things deteriorated from there. I went inside to get some water, but I didn't make it out in time to save my bear. It sucked. This was my first experience with a crowd turning ugly.
|In retrospect, I should have 1) attacked the bear with a razor blade OR 2) turned off the halogen light.
Maybe I will try a similar stunt in the future. I feel the potential for a great effect at a very low price is there...and I keep filling up drawers with these sauce packets!
About 4 months after I posted this story, someone related a story about the birth of Burning Man: One year, I think it was 1989, Larry Harvey, the founder of the burning man festival, lost control of the crowd he was entertaining on Baker Beach, San Francisco. The crowd turned against him and burned his man. The next year he moved the event out into the desert of Northern Nevada.