Travel

In Sandwich, Giants light up the holidays

Michael Magyar’s angels commemorate two Sandwich teenagers who died.
C. JAMES SMITH
Michael Magyar’s angels commemorate two Sandwich teenagers who died.

SANDWICH — They are impossible to miss during the holiday season if you’re driving through downtown Sandwich and along The Old King’s Highway, more commonly known as Route 6A. The massive steel sculptures, stationed in front of local businesses, schools, churches, and libraries, glow in the night with brightly colored Christmas lights. A lobsterman, a fire truck, a chef, a sand dollar, a juggler, a pair of angels, a spotted cod, a gardener, and a crow are a sampling of the 34 that are on display from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

There is also a glassblower, which is how the sculptures now known as “The Giants” began nearly 20 years ago. It was glass artist and sculptor Michael Magyar’s first creation in 1996. Fashioned from rebar iron, Magyar placed the 12-foot-high display outside his business, The Glass Studio of Cape Cod.

“I used to hang a two-story Christmas tree against the house,” he says. “It was a lot of work. So I thought, instead of a giant tree I’ll make a glassblower. Three years later I designed a baseball player down the street to honor Ted Williams, and then I thought, wouldn’t be it be fun to keep doing a new one every year.”

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Magyar has since built nearly 60 Giants. The process of creating a Giant begins with a pencil drawing. Magyar then lays out the metal, cutting and bending different shapes from 20-foot steel rods. Once he begins the molding process, he says “The Giants come alive.” Lighting the Giants is left up the individual owners.

Baseball player honoring Ted Williams.
C. JAMES SMITH
Baseball player honoring Ted Williams.
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There are now Giants in Dennis, Barnstable Village, Hyannis, and Mashpee, and also on the front lawns of a handful of private residences. But it’s in Sandwich, which bills itself as “Town of the Giants,” where they are most populous. Magyar’s figures play a prominent role in the town’s First Night celebration. His “First Light” display showing a Christmas tree embedded with a whale, a dolphin, a shark, a tuna, a jellyfish, and a scallop is placed outside Sandwich Town Hall.

The journey of the Giants begins on entering Sandwich on Route 6A, where visitors are greeted by a pair of angels that honor the memory of Maggie Smilley and Jeff Hayes, two teenage residents who died a few years ago.

One after another, the eight- to 23-foot-tall Giants light the way through the town. A firefighter holds a hose at the Sandwich Fire Station; a man tosses numbers into the air at an accountant’s office; and a baseball player swings a bat in front of a sports memorabilia shop.

A short detour into the town center reveals a rainbow dove at a church, a stick figure holding aloft an open book in front of the local library, and Old Man Winter braving the cold at The Weather Store.

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Circle back onto Route 6A and more Giants appear. Peter Rabbit welcomes visitors to the Green Briar Nature Center Jam Kitchen; a man holds up a lobster at Salty Lou’s; a gardener pours water at Scenic Roots; Colonial Man stands straight and firm at Titcomb’s Bookshop; a worker holds up a wrench at Canning’s Service Center; and a crow hangs suspended in midair at Crow Farm.

Calendars with photos of the Giants and a map displaying their locations are being sold in many Sandwich stores.

Magyar shakes his head when he thinks of what his original glassblower inspired.

“The number of Giants now on display hit me like a ton of bricks two years ago. I thought, Oh my gosh, what did I do?” he says. “It’s humbling to know that people love it and that it’s now part of the community.”

The glassblower that started the Giants craze.
C. James Smith
The glassblower that started the Giants craze.

Rob Duca can be reached at robaduca@gmail.com.