When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the piñata business that Carolina Tolladay Vidal runs out of her South Anchorage home slowed.
“Many of the projects I had were moved to other dates,” she said. “Many were canceled.”
With a suddenly open calendar, Tolladay Vidal decided to create something new: A giant coronavirus piñata. She had seen photos of the idea online, and it seemed like the perfect thing to whack.
“I think you really smash them and break them and hit them with meaning,” she said. “Because it has been tough for everybody.”
Tolladay Vidal posted a photograph of her homemade COVID-19 piñata to Instagram, and the orders started rolling in for the spiky germs.
Alaskans were eager to get their hands on a version of the coronavirus they could easily destroy.
“I just felt like beating the heck out of a COVID piñata,” said Rose Consenstein, who clobbered one of Tolladay Vidal’s creations in her Anchorage front yard at her eighth birthday last year.
“I couldn’t see it, since I had a blindfold,” she said. “But I was just like, ‘I want to get you!’”
Across the country, people have taken to bashing coronavirus piñatas during the pandemic.
In a year filled with so much uncertainty and so much loss, smashing the germ — even in its cardboard and streamer form — just feels good, said Tolladay Vidal.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, you know,” she said. “I hope that people see the fun of it.”
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While Tolladay Vidal started crafting the huge COVID-19 germs in 2020, she started her business about four years ago, after one of her daughters requested a piñata shaped like the character named “Cloud Guy” from the movie “Trolls.”
“I had looked in the stores in town. I looked online, and I didn’t find anything,” Tolladay Vidal said. “And I thought, ‘Well, you know, it shouldn’t be so hard to make up a piñata.’”
Growing up in Mexico, she had helped her family create them.
“I have a memory of my grandma setting up all the grandchildren and helping her make a couple star piñatas with the seven points,” she said.
In Anchorage, Tolladay Vidal created a big cloud piñata with skinny legs and arms and a toothy grin for her daughter’s birthday.
Soon, the birthday project turned into a hobby that turned into an online business, called The Piñata Shop, where she creates custom piñatas for people in Alaska.
Tolladay Vidal has made everything from salmon to tacos to Xtratuf boots to tall cakes for Alaska weddings.
Some take a few hours to make, and some take days.
She creates them all in her basement — a room filled with sketchbooks and streamers and tables where her two daughters make their own creations.
Also, hanging from the ceiling on a recent afternoon were three big coronavirus germs.
The round balls were covered in red fringe, with more than a dozen spikes sticking out of them. They had green eyes and white fangs.
Tolladay Vidal said she thinks they look scary, but her daughters disagree.
“The youngest especially says it’s too cute to smash because of the big eyes,” she said. “But I say, ‘It’s got sharp teeth and he wants you and he wants to live in your body. So I will get rid of that. And I will smash that!’”
Eight-year-old Rose’s mom, Kate Consenstein, said the coronavirus piñatas felt like the perfect thing to smash at a party where kids stood in chalk-drawn circles to keep distance between them as they waited for their turn to take a whack at the germ.
“Coronavirus is the perfect villain for children. They can really just simply understand that that is the thing that we want to defeat,” she said. “There was so much cheering when it exploded.”
Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org.