Updating Shasta County’s Capitol Building Display
By Jon Lewis
Story by Jon Lewis
Photos by Eric Caldwell, and courtesy of Randi Slaughter
RANDI SLAUGHTER wants Shasta County to put its best face forward, and especially in California’s Capitol, where more than a million people a year have a chance to check out the county’s features.
The trouble is, the county’s best face is looking a little fatigued. If the collection of county displays on exhibit in the Capitol were a dating app, a fair number of potential daters would probably swipe left.
Slaughter takes a kinder approach: “I had seen the county displays in my normal visits to Sacramento and I noticed ours was a little outdated,” she says. How outdated? Completed in 1993, the current display highlights the Dixieland Jazz Festival, a Redding event last held in 2000, and celebrates the county’s once-thriving mining industry.
What’s missing? The Sundial Bridge, the historic Cascade Theatre, the Sacramento River Trail network, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and other features with the potential to put Shasta County on the mental map of Capitol visitors.
Slaughter says the idea of giving the display a facelift first surfaced as a potential group project for her Leadership Redding class. When the group decided not to pursue it, Slaughter decided to take it on by herself. “Something needed to be done,” she says.
Slaughter huddled with her husband, Rocky, a public relations professional now in his third year of law school, and held a brainstorming session. How could the exhibit – a glass-encased display about six feet high and three feet wide – be brought into the 21st century? High-tech QR codes? Glitzy video displays?
The couple decided some field work was in order. “We decided to sit and watch people, so on five occasions, at about two hours each time, we would watch people and how they interacted with the display. Ironically, ours is 26 years old but it was one of the fan favorites. The interactive diorama effect was quite popular and really engaged them,” Slaughter says.
Using a stopwatch, the Capitol corridor sleuths determined the Shasta County display was capturing about eight seconds of attention, on average. Counties with the flashy video displays and QR codes (barcodes that direct smartphone users to a website) weren’t stopping as much traffic, Slaughter says.
The Slaughters realized that passersby, and kids in particular, enjoyed the three-dimensional diorama style and the figurines. With an artistic direction in mind, the next step was locating a diorama designer up to the task. Their search led to New York-based Nix + Gerber, a two-person team that has created miniature sets and props for Tic Tac, Oreo cookies, Greenpeace and Ben & Jerry’s, among other clients.
“We worked and searched and did due diligence for the best answer,” Slaughter says of selecting an out-of-town contractor, “but we don’t have a local business that focuses on model making. Nix + Gerber will be on budget and can meet our timeline.”
Slaughter took her idea before the Shasta County Board of Supervisors in June and received a unanimous vote of approval. Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees noted that the county set out to update the display two years earlier, but that effort was not successful. “I’m really grateful for the passion they have for this project,” Lees says of the Slaughters. “And for finding private funding. Kudos to them.”
“I’m not so sure about your stalking the hallways of the Capitol but I’m grateful,” Supervisor Leonard Moty told them with a chuckle. “Your passion and your enthusiasm are obvious. Thank you for your hard work.”
With the board’s OK in hand, Slaughter then turned to fundraising. The cost to refurbish Shasta’s Capitol display came to $40,000. Partnering with the Shasta Regional Community Foundation and turning to Barbara Harrison and Megan Conn for help, Slaughter says $20,000 is in the account and the remainder will be provided through commitments from various groups, local businesses and individuals. Dignity Health, the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association and Shasta Caverns have been major contributors.
“It shows the commitment of the community that our county is displayed in a positive way,” Slaughter says. She hopes to unveil the new display this spring. •