Bubba bearing the community: The story of the drought, a tree and a wooden bear

Kalpana Gopalkrishnan and Avni Prasad

Sarah Kopy has been living in the same one-story house near the corner of Bubb Road and Yorkshire Drive since she was 12 years old. When she moved to the house, there was more empty space than houses, and she lived across from Mrs. Regnart (Think: Regnart Elementary School).

Kopy’s “Bubba” the Bubb Road Bear is dressed up for Christmas. Kopy dresses up Bubba for all major holidays. Photo by Avni Prasad

In front of Kopy’s house, the Regnarts had planted numerous trees; three of those trees were planted in honor of Regnart’s grandchildren. They still stand today, with the oldest at 70 years old.

But one of Regnart’s trees, which would be 65 years old, didn’t make it through the drought. Kopy, who did not want to want to get rid of the tree entirely, called a carver from Humboldt County. However, before the carver could begin, Kopy needed permission from the City of Cupertino.

“He asked me which way it should face, and I said towards the crosswalk so he can watch the kids,” Kopy said.

So Bubba the Bear was born on Oct. 10, 2015, facing the crosswalk.  To Kopy, a bear just seemed right, and he was christened Bubba after the street he faces, Bubb Road. It has been over a year since Bubba was first unveiled to the public, and since then, he’s become something of a community figure, someone that Kopy dresses up for important holidays, that kids greet as they walk home from school, that Girl Scouts sell cookies in front of. Even Kopy herself is surprised at how much the community has taken to Bubba.

“Grandparents and parents say that their children say, ‘Oh no we have to go see Bubba,” Kopy said.  “And it’ll be completely out of their way, and they’ll have to make a detour to go see Bubba.”

In particular, Kopy has noticed that the community reacts to the costumes she dresses Bubba in for major holidays.

Kopy has a sign outside of her house advertising Bubba. Bubba’s namesake is Bubb Road, the road he faces.

“If I’m out here decorating him, people will stop their car and say ‘Thank you so much’ for doing it, “ Kopy said.

On the Fourth of July, he wore sunglasses and held an American flag. On Halloween, he had a witch’s hat and a broom. On Christmas Eve, he wore a Santa costume with a bag of presents in his hand. Kopy plans these costumes months in advance, and she buys the clothes and materials in the biggest size they carry at stores like Michaels and Party City.

But on Bubba’s first birthday, Oct. 10, 2016, someone else dressed up Bubba for Kopy. One of Kopy’s friends, who lives up across the street from her on Regnart Road, decided to surprise Kopy with a 1st birthday outfit for Bubba: balloons and a scroll where passersby could wish Bubba a happy birthday. Kopy still has the scroll today, which is laden with the words “Happy Birthday Bubba!” and “We love you Bubba!”

Kopy put a calendar next to Bubba for the Christmas season. She often puts props next to Bubba and costumes on him.

Although she has lived in the same home since she was 12, Kopy has met more people in the last year than she can remember.

“He’s a community bear,” Kopy said. “Everybody loves him. I have met more people in the last year because they feel comfortable to stop and talk to me about Bubba.”

On the next drive down Bubb Road, Bubba might be dressed up for New Years, or Chinese New Year’s, or maybe Valentine’s Day. He could have just been a stump, but instead, one of Regnart’s trees that died from the drought became something more.

“I think it just draws the neighborhood together,” Kopy said. “It’s something positive, something fanciful, with the turmoil there is in the world, he’s a happy thing to look at.”