Woodworker Gives Horses New Life

Jubilee Sparks Crafty Gift for the Nut Tree

Several of those iconic Nut Tree hobby horses that both children and adults love to ride were out of sight for many years after the Nut Tree restaurant closed in 2009. But, they've risen to ride again, thanks to a collaboration between NorthBay Healthcare Foundation and a generous volunteer with woodworking talents.

The collaboration began in May, 2017, when Solano Wine & Food Jubilee committee members - helping clean up the Harbison Event Center at the Nut Tree before the Jubilee - discovered a "boneyard" of trashed and forgotten items leftover from the restaurant's heyday. A number of the large hobby horses had been tossed into an open storage area, where they had been decaying along with rusted shopping carts, twisted shelving, and other debris for many years.

"Most of the horses were in pretty bad shape," said Brett Johnson, president of NorthBay Healthcare Foundation. A couple of them were usable enough to be on display at the 2017 Jubilee, but it seemed a shame to let the others deteriorate, he added.

So Brett turned to Jim Lambright, an old friend and retired general contractor for help. Jim is a woodworking enthusiast who had helped NorthBay before, when he volunteered to build a porch and other enhancements for the NorthBay Adult Day Center when it was still on the VacaValley Hospital campus.

"I remember those horses from when I was kid and would go to the Nut Tree," Jim said. "I was glad to help out."

What he had to work with was in less-than-great shape.

"They were broken, vandalized and pretty well torn up," he said.

Each horse took several hours to repair, as he had to sand the wood down, replace broken parts, repaint and reassemble them. One of the refurbished horses was unveiled at the ribbon cutting for NorthBay Urgent Care at the Nut Tree, where Jim was publicly thanked for the time he donated to the project.

Now, a half dozen newly renovated horses can be found at the children's play area near the carousel in the Nut Tree Plaza.