As one of the most recognizable figures in the Providence, R.I., skyline, the 58-foot, 4,000-pound Big Blue Bug is seen daily by thousands of Rhode Islanders. With the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent need to raise awareness about mask-wearing, it was only natural that the bug — whose actual name is Nibbles Woodaway — was called into action.
The bug has been adorned with a painted-on facemask and Big Blue Bug Solutions added a banner thanking essential workers.
“The community reached out to us and overwhelmingly said ‘the bug needs a mask,’” Brian Goldman, president of Big Blue Bug Solutions, told PCT. “We are right down the street from some of the major hospitals in Rhode Island, and we work with a lot of [hospital personnel]. We felt it was a great way to spread the message [about the importance of mask wearing] and also to say thanks to all of the frontline workers.”
How did the Big Blue Bug team make a mask that big? “It’s actually painted on, which was the suggestion of one of our employees. It was the right decision because it can withstand the weather,” said Goldman, who enlisted local painter Mike Moffitt, from Dennis Moffitt Painting, Providence, R.I. Moffitt, who has experience with specialized painting projects, painted the mask from a lift. The Providence community also got involved when it came to deciding how to decorate the Big Blue Bug for the holidays. In a normal year, the bug is adorned with antlers, bulbs and a red nose. “People were proactive and said, ‘You know, the proper way to wear a mask is to have it cover the nose,’” said Goldman, who agreed and made sure that the bug’s nose remained covered throughout the holidays. — Brad Harbison
Big Blue Bug Creator Dies at 88
George Cardono, creator of the Big Blue Bug, passed away on Jan. 27, at age 88. An accomplished artist, Cardono’s most well-known and visible piece is certainly Nibbles Woodaway, the 58-foot-tall, 4,000-pound Rhode Island landmark that appeared in the 1994 comedy masterpiece “Dumb and Dumber.”
Steve Goldman, retired CEO of Big Blue Bug Solutions, told PCT that he and his late father, Leonard, brought Cardono aboard in 1980 to help design a billboard to be placed atop the company’s building on I-95.
“We met with George and he asked us to think about what we can do to make the billboard unique, and I said, ‘Well, we are in the pest control business, what about putting up a giant replica bug?’ Everyone’s eyes lit up. It was like a light bulb went off,” Goldman said.
After scrapping the billboard plan in favor of a giant insect, the group chose a termite swarmer since these are a visible pest that gets the company’s phones ringing.
Cardono, whose background included not only art, but engineering and architecture, took it from there. “He designed it, he created it, he built it and he installed it,” Goldman recalled. This process included choosing fiberglass steel for the bug’s body and mounting the bug into the building’s steel girders — a decision that has kept the bug anchored atop the building and has helped it withstand the sometimes fierce New England winds.
The bug was originally painted purple, but as it weathered (UV rays) that purple turned to blue. “We re-painted it after the first time it happened, but then threw in the towel. It worked out perfectly because Big Blue Bug has such a great alliteration.”
Goldman said he and Cardono stayed in touch throughout the years, and in June 2002 Goldman called on Cardono to help dismantle the bug, clean it up and refurbish it. “While [Nibbles] was down we took it on tour throughout Rhode Island and you would not believe the reception Nibbles got from the public,” Goldman said. The highlight of that tour was Nibbles’ participation in the Bristol (R.I.) Fourth of July Parade, where it was the last float, akin to Santa Claus being the last float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It’s just something that has become endeared by the entire state of Rhode Island,” Goldman added. “George is part and parcel of that. He knows he created a landmark and an icon that hopefully will live forever.” — Brad Harbison