Photo by Linda Jo Martin

You are looking at what may be the largest dreamcatcher in the world. It stands as a work of public art in Happy Camp, California. Created by artist and dreamer, Dennis Day.

Hold tight to your dreams and watch them come alive!

An interview with Dennis Day, creator of the largest dreamcatcher in the world.

Interviewer: Linda Jo Martin

Linda: We’re here with Dennis Day today, an extraordinary Happy Camp citizen of many years, an incredible satirist, and of all things, a dreamcatcher builder. So how did you get started with the idea to build the dreamcatcher?

Dennis Day's original dreamcatcher in Happy Camp, CA was in the community garden lot next to what is now the Karuk Senior Nutrition Center.
The first giant dreamcatcher Dennis Day built.

Dennis: I went to a crafts class and learned to make miniature dreamcatchers. I took those to a crafts fair the next week, and they sold. When I moved to Happy Camp, Pete and Terri (Winslow) were talking about manifesting dreams, and I said, “Why don’t we manifest big dreams? Let’s build the world’s largest dreamcatcher!” Because I had built a few small ones, I figured we could just build a large one. And that’s where it all began. So we started on the project here in Happy Camp, to build the world’s largest.

Linda: I met you for the first time at River Park. You were sitting there with Papa Lou and you were planning the dreamcatcher at the time.

Dennis: Were we building that by the Resource Center? Right there on Second Street?

Linda: Yes, that was the original dreamcatcher.

Dennis: And you know that one crashed because we had poles that were rotten with bugs in them, and that’s when I got depressed and just loaded up and left town, because we put a lot of work into that.

Linda: Yes, I remember. And so the second dreamcatcher … I know that you left town. You didn’t plan to build another dreamcatcher but then you came back and you did build one, so why was that?

Dennis: I’ve always had the vision of building another one somewhere, some day. I never lost track of the vision and the desire to do it. I just didn’t know where, and when, and how it was going to happen. I walked by Cheryl and Jim’s place one day, Health and Harmony (owned by Cheryl and Jim Wainwright), and Cheryl came out and said, “How would you like to build another giant dreamcatcher? Jim will help you with what you need to erect it and put it up in the air.

I said, “It sounds like a good deal!” So within about three days we were stripping branches from local trees, Ann Mary, Cheryl, and myself. Ann Mary Smith was the retired nun that was here in town. We started stripping branches from those local trees here – fifteen of them – seven feet, ten inches long – overlap ten inches each – which made one hundred and five feet. Now we figured that would be the world’s largest dreamcatcher. To this day it is undisputed that it holds that title.

Dennis Day, creator of the Happy Camp, CA giant dreamcatcher, believed by many to be the largest dreamcatcher in the world.
Dennis Day with his dreamcatcher plan.

Linda: So, tell me about the wood that you used to form the hoop.

Dennis: The hoop was formed out of six or seven varieties of branches from local trees here – cedar, dogwood, hazelwood, madrone, and maple.

Linda: I remember seeing you work on that wood for a long time before the dreamcatcher was ready, and then you dyed the rope?

Dennis: I dyed the rope with linseed oil in a turquoise color, so we hold the tradition of the Indian rituals, and that turned out fine. It was over 900 feet of rope.

Linda: So what was the most challenging or difficult part of building the dreamcatcher?

Dennis: The most difficult part of this whole thing was getting the metal framing, to erect it and pull it up into the air. A dreamcatcher sitting on the ground just didn’t seem to be effective. It had to be suspended and hanged. That’s where James Wainwright and Cheryl came in. But it took a lot of work, because we had pipes that were donated that were old and rusty.

We had to remove all the rust and we had to primer them, and then we had to paint them, then we had to weld them all together so that they’d reach fifty feet into the air, and we had quite an engineering feat on that, to figure out how to do that. We wanted to put the dreamcatcher up so we could bring it down and maintain it and redecorate it appropriately, the weather taking its toll. That was the most difficult part. The dreamcatcher itself was tedious but not difficult.

Linda: What plans do you have for the future of this dreamcatcher?

Dennis: Personally, I continue to promote the philosophy of the dreamcatcher, based on a quote attributable to Chief Seattle. One to Martin Luthur King, and the other to Albert Einstein. There are three quotes that are very apropos to the dreamcatcher being symbolic of the web of life. I intend to personally promote the philosophy as long as I’m alive.

As far as the physical dreamcatcher itself I’d like to see it maintained, redecorated, I’d like to see other people in the community put their own small dreamcatchers inside this one until they fill up every space that’s on it, and then have a couple thousand lights put back on it. Personally, that’s where I stand on it.

The dreamcatcher is on public display at the end of Davis St. at Indian Creek Road, across from Parry's Market.
This giant dreamcatcher still stands in Happy Camp, California.

Linda: It’s very dramatic when I see it lit up at Christmastime and Halloween.

Dennis: I haven’t proven this to be a fact, but I’ve heard that if you leave the Medford airport at night you can see the dreamcatcher from the sky. Someday I’d like to get a ticket and leave at night just to see it. Of course it has to be a clear night, preferably without a full moon.

Linda: Suppose building large dreamcatchers like this catches on as a fad. What advice would you give to future builders of huge dreamcatchers?

Dennis: I don’t usually like to receive free unsolicited advice so I’m not really good at giving it. If they wanted to build a larger one than this I would encourage it. Truly. I’d like to see someone build a larger one and erect it.

Linda: How large is this one?

Dennis: This is 105 feet circumference which is 33 feet diameter. I would say, do it out of as many natural materials as you can, rather than synthetic hoops. I think that’s part of what it should be, to keep the Native American tradition authentic. And do not make it too gaudy as I’ve found dreamcatchers in their simplicity have more beauty than some of the ones that are just over-decorated.

Linda: Anything else you want to add?

Dennis: I do want people to realize it is about a life philosophy more-so than it is artwork. There’s a lot of significance about bad dreams getting caught in the web and being dissipated by the early morning light. I think that has archetypical significance, truly, that the light dissipates the dark and the evil. And that’s part of the philosophy of the dreamcatcher.

Linda: Thank you so much for the interview!

Dennis: Thank you, Linda.

Linda: I truly appreciate it!