Fans you may recognize them from being one of the first campers in each race weekend to our GEICO Family Campgrounds outside of Turn 3! They always have a fun display up! Read their story below and check out some of the amazing displays they have built over the years! We will miss you this year!
Q: How many years have you been coming to Pocono?
Ozzie: We came to Pocono a few times in the late 90’s with Ellie’s sister but it wasn’t until we got a new camper in 2010 that we came back and haven’t missed a race since.
Q: How does one get into the “foam display” business?
Ellen: No Business. We don’t sell it. It’s just a hobby. Ozzie was an avid bowler when Twentieth Century Lanes in Sidney added-on a barroom. I thought this would be a great place to have a party, I love to plan parties.
Ozzie: Then Ellie immediately said, “This would be a great place to have a party!” And I love to party, so it worked out well. We hosted a few holiday parties there and did decorations out of cardboard, paper mache, most anything we could think of.
Ellen: Then I ran into a local guy named Mike Barnes, who was transporting and doing set up and tear down for Broadway roadshows. I was involved in musical theater at the time and we struck up a conversation. He gave me the idea to try Dow foam board, which was being used for much of their set design. We created an expansive Walt Disney themed holiday party that year and have been hooked on foam board ever since. We have experimented over the years, how to cut, sand, scrape, melt, hotwire the foam, what paints and glues work the best. A wealth of knowledge, now, just through trial and error.
Q: What was the seed for this idea and when did it get underway at Pocono Raceway?
Ozzie: We liked Rutledge Wood.
Ellen: Exactly. We knew they would be filming at Pocono on the Speed Stage and wondered if we could make something funny out of foam, which turned out to be Rutledge’s head, take it to the Speed Stage and see if we could get on TV. The cameraman spotted Oz carrying it on the way in, promised to get it on TV, and Rutledge and Kyle ended up with it on stage for the last segment of the show. It wasn’t our best work Kyle said “Get that thing outta’ here. It’s scarin’ me!” But it was fun and it prompted Rutledge to ask us if he could bring a film crew over to our camper the following morning to conduct an interview for his podcast called “Rutledge at Large”. Once a film crew of any kind shows up at a campsite it piques the interest of the surrounding campers and people passing by.
Ellen: They did and they didn’t forget who we were, for some reason. It was great fun and we felt like “mini-celebrities”. It immediately became a mindset of…
Ozzie: How can we top this next year?
Ellen: He knows me so well.
Q: Once you made the decision, back in 2011, to bring a display to Pocono twice a year, how do you come up with a theme? What inspires you?
Ozzie: Usually, a can of beer and a Bloody Mary will start the process!
Ellen: Or we might be watching something on TV, see something in a magazine or on a billboard that gets the wheels turning. Usually, I’m looking for something humorous and something that makes me say “Wouldn’t that look GREAT made out of foam?”
Ozzie: We also like to do “Thank You” and “Tribute to” kinds of themes, like the Salute to the Troops and thanks to our First Responders. We’re usually inspired by real-life friends and family.
Q: Now you have a theme. What’s next?
Ozzie: Ellie makes all the patterns and draws them onto the sheets of foam.
Ellen: Then Ozzie does all the cutting with the scroll saw for the small stuff, sabre saw for the big things, we use the table saw to rip supports, most any tools you’d use to work with wood we use. Then I use small tools to shape, carve and sand – X-Acto knives, hack saw blades, small hand saws, you name it. Ozzie paints everything and then I finish up with shading. When it comes to the engineering aspect of hooking it all together and readying it for easy setup and knockdown, sometimes we’ll throw ideas back and forth for weeks or months, and then all of a sudden a light bulb goes off and we go “Aha!”
Q: Tell me about transporting the foam and then setting up the display – how that whole process works.
Ozzie: We move all the foam inside our camper. My wife is a master at packing.
Ellen: We can usually fit it all in and leave just enough room to get to the bed and the bathroom. We always head down to Pocono one night early and stay somewhere in the area. Once in our campsite at the raceway, we haul everything out and lay it on the ground. Some displays we can set up ourselves but if we need a hand we can always depend on the same Pocono camper friends we see every year – Shane Laws, Ken Heffernen, Mark Jesske and Dan Mohrman for the July race, Dave Macy in June and Brandon Hontz haven’t missed a single one of them.
Q: Once set up, what do you enjoy most about that point forward?
Ozzie: Beer. Sleep. No, seriously – I am relieved that it’s finally done, we’re here and we’re all set up!
Ellen: He’s right. That is the biggest relief. Then I like to pull back and just watch. Ozzie is a people person and loves to chat with the fans walking by. He gets asked tons of questions about the foam and that interaction keeps him happy throughout the weekend.
Ozzie: Ellie likes to sit back and watch ME interact with people. I don’t get it but “A happy wife is a happy life.”.
Ellen: I think I live vicariously through Ozzie, at this point. I’m just too lazy to get up and talk!
Q: How about when it comes down? What do you do with it?
Ellen: Some get second lives. Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho display was transported to New Hampshire Motor Speedway by Pocono race friends. Dale Earnhardt now rests in the Ridge-Culver Volunteer Firehouse. Tony Stewart as well as the First Responders pieces went to Pocono race camping friends from the Webster, Central Square, and Fulton, NY areas.
Ozzie: Darryl Waltrip’s driver, Jimbo, took that display and I was told it was riding back to Charlotte in a trailer behind Jeff Gordan’s motorhome.
Ellen: We still have some in storage but most all find a happy home!
Q: Do you recall which displays may have been the most popular with fans?
Ozzie: Salute to the Troops, without a doubt. That went around the world that weekend.
Ellen: That’s so true. I can’t tell you how many people, after snapping a picture, told us things like “This picture just went to my niece at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.” We heard the same comments over and over. It made us proud. We put a lot of heart and soul into that display – actually brought it down twice – so it was satisfying to see people sharing it, instantly, with those serving around the globe.
Q: Well, then, how about just the most fun with fans?
Ozzie: I think the Heigh-Ho, Seven Dwarfs in the diamond mine was a favorite. Dan Mohrman dressed up as Snow White and everyone wanted to pose with him.
Ellen: Something about Disney that makes young and old smile. And a couple of years ago we brought the M & M peanut, “Yellow” back down. A couple of guys spotted it and we gave it to them. They returned later and told us they had taken Yellow up to the Wa-Wa and then went to the grocery store and pushed him around in the cart while they shopped. I laugh every time I think of it.
Ozzie: And everyone loved the Dale Earnhardt with the #3 car. I remember lots of cameras going on that one.
Q: I understand you have become well known to fellow campers in the Family Camping area. Is there any downside to being recognized year after year?
Ellen: For the most part, we love being recognized. They call us the “foam people”, I think.
Ozzie: Now that they recognize me, though, I have to behave!
Q: Will you finish your display that was planned for our 2020 Doubleheader weekend and bring it to Pocono Raceway in 2021?
Ellen: We will absolutely finish “Fox in the Hen House” for 2021. We have completed all the small characters, which are the most time-consuming. We’re ready to carry on!
Q: Why does Pocono rank among your favorite tracks?
Ozzie: Oh, it is our favorite track, hands down. It’s the closest to home!
Ellen: Besides great speedway racing, Pocono has all the great amenities to draw fans in – concerts, driver appearances, all sorts of events for kids, even dogs. But the two things I like the most are the accessibility to drivers and media and the proximity of the camping areas to the track. A huge part of the infield is the camping area and on the outside, there are camping areas just over the berm of the track. But I love nothing more than to hear and smell those engines fire up in the morning for practice, feel the rumble in my gut when they go by.
Ozzie: And you said accessibility. We’re “golf cart watchers”. I’m a little better at it than Ellie is – keeping an eye out and spotting drivers, sponsors, media, all those people who travel around in golf carts. They may wave, give us a thumbs up, or sometimes they even pull over to say “hi”.
Ellen: Remember, Oz, a few years ago, we were sitting outside one morning having coffee and we were asking each other where, in the world, could someone be having a cup of coffee and see Richard Petty, Mike Helton, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jarrett, Channing Tatum and Dale Junior drive-by on golf their carts? While having our morning coffee! And it can be like that all day long. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Ozzie: Pocono Raceway. No contest.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from Pocono?
Ozzie: I was a career-long Darryl Waltrip fan so when he came to our camper with his film crew last June that was a moment I’ll never forget.
Ellen: Anything Rutledge. Period.
Q: If you could share one message with all your fellow Pocono Campers and Fans as we look forward to coming together again in 2021, what would it be?
Ellen: Looking forward to the 2020 Pocono Doubleheader broadcast with no fans, my message would be to drag out all those photos from past Pocono races. Pull all those memories up on your phones. Create a slide show. Have a conversation about the good times. Zoom with the family and friends you would have been at the race with. Create your own pre-race party. You’ll find that you are suddenly excited about the upcoming broadcast. We know. We’re doing it. The minute the race is over start your plans for Pocono 2021.
Ozzie: She’s not kidding. She has already started the 2021 countdown!
Check out some of their displays below!