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Driver Brian Clay makes epic Halloween display for charity

A giant handmade pirate ship sits on the edge of a driveway. The ship has three masts, color lights, skeletons playing instruments and an American flag.

Nobody can ever accuse company driver Brian Clay of laziness. When he isn’t busy driving for Schneider’s Dedicated division, he’s working on a project back at home.

Schneider driver Brian Clay poses with his wife.

Brian has worked for Schneider for four years – after a 35-year career in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. Brian’s route consists of hauling mostly furniture from Georgia to Florida and allows him to get home every-other-day.

That means he has time to dream up projects that allow him to show his creative side and put his mechanical engineering skills to work. This year, one of his side projects took on a life of its own.

What Brian's Halloween display entailed

Way back in March, Brian decided he wanted to create a special Halloween display in his yard to cheer up kids who wouldn’t experience a traditional holiday due to the pandemic. His idea: a giant haunted pirate ship!

Brian started drawing up plans for his Halloween masterpiece and began building. In the end, he had a giant ship with three masts, cannons, a plank for walking and viewing sections to see the skeleton pirates at work and chained in jail!

The huge handmade pirate ship sits on the edge of the driveway during the day time with none of the lights on.

The crowds that gathered to see the display especially loved the three sail masts that raised and lowered (with the help of giant wench and a 500lb counter-weight), the light and sound show that rivaled Las Vegas and the animated skeleton band that played to the music.

A band on the pirate ship made up of skeletons plays various instruments like guitars, drums,  base and more.

To make the band really rock out, Brian set them in motion by connecting windshield wiper motors to them. As a classic rock drummer himself, Brian realized the percussionist needed some extra pep, so it was connected to a faster kitchen-mixer motor. The pirates’ jaws were connected to fishing line so they could “sing,” and the whole thing was controlled from a mixing board behind the ship that rivaled the Star Trek Enterprise!

Not to mention all the wiring the display required.

“There is about 2.5 miles of wiring in it,” Brian said. “It was built in five separate sections that sit on a 28-mini-wheel trailer system – more wheels than are on my truck. When we start up the display, I go out and do a pre-trip inspection to make sure everything is in good working order. Safety first here, too!”

Brian’s wife, Marianne, was a little concerned at first with the size of the growing ship in their yard (and their personal investment of thousands of dollars), but she soon got behind the project all the way – adding new design elements, helping paint, decorating it and greeting the visiting crowds.

Using the display to raise money for charity

The backside of the pirate ship includes a skeleton forcing another skeleton to walk the plank, cannons, orange fencing, the captain's wheel and one of the masts.

As the project grew, Brian’s frequent trips to the local ACE Hardware of Dade City for supplies drew the attention of the manager there. Once they found out about Brian’s project, they saw an opportunity to advertise for the display in connection with their local efforts to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

In addition to collecting donations at the store, ACE Hardware directed people to Brian’s house for the display, and Brian collected more in-person donations from those who stopped by. As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come,” and they certainly did.

Brian estimates they had nearly a thousand people from multiple states stop by, and they collected more than $2,000 in donations.

“I just wanted to make people smile,” Brian said. “Projects like these keep me out of trouble, and I love seeing people stand in the driveway and laugh. We all need that right now!”

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