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'That went viral, pun intended' | COVID art display by Sacramento artist a bright spot during pandemic

David Smith, owner of Dave's Retro Games, says the "Covid balls" started as a way to add humor to early pandemic problems and spiraled from there.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If you ask David Smith what he wants to do with his beautiful COVID-19 art display once the pandemic is over, his answer is...destroy them. 

"Once we get this thing behind us I was thinking we could take them to a shooting range and shoot them up," Smith said. "Then I got the idea to contact a Pyrotechnics company to blow them up with fireworks when California comes out of the lock down."

Smith is the owner of Dave's Retro Games, operating at the Folsom Boulevard Flea Market located at 8521 Folsom Boulevard on weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the last 37 years. He has taken up art in his free time, and his recent project is gathering some interested looks from neighbors around his College Glen neighborhood. 

Five "Covid balls" — shaped like the molecular model of the virus we have all come to know and recognize — hang in a tree in his yard. They light up, too. A giant Pfizer hypodermic needle is also on display to commemorate the vaccine. 

Credit: David Smith
All five COVID models and the Pfizer needle during the day.

"For years, we have put crazy fun stuff in our yard," Smith said. 

The COVID-19 display actually started as an alternative sort of safety signage for Smith's business. He said that early in the pandemic, he had some trouble with customers not wearing masks, but felt uncomfortable asking them to put one on. 

"As a result, I came up with the idea to make a large COVID ball and hang it in the middle of the store, so then all I had to do was point at the COVID ball and say, 'we have Covid here, so you better put on your mask.' It worked great. With a little bit of humor, it got the point across," Smith said.

But one just wasn't enough. Hoping to improve on his first attempt, Smith made a second, and then a third. Now, there are seven in total.

"Two at the store and five in the COVID tree," Smith said. "We also put a sign 'Wear Your Mask' under the balls." 

Credit: David Smith
Dave's Retro Games at the Folsom Boulevard Flea Market.

These COVID art balls have already had some publicity. Besides, Smith saying that neighbors drive and walk by, wave at him and take photos of the display, one of the balls was also used in B Street Theater's "New Year's Eve COVID Ball Drop," which was livestreamed. 

"That went viral, pun intended," Smith said. 

For those wanting to see these fun, virus-inspired instillations, you can check out Dave's Retro Games at the Folsom Boulevard Flea Market this weekend. 

"We are always buying anything Nintendo, so bring out those dusty old retro games for cash or trade and check out our balls," Smith said. "Our store is on the Main Isle in the last “Red” barn on the left."

WATCH MORE: Health officials warn to not let guards down even after vaccinations