Pepper celebrating Keagan Leisure’s graduation. Pictured (left to right) are Bloomingdale seniors Willow Gibson, Mirando Mayaudon, Makenna Mach, Keagan, Jonny Shilling and Lazaro Fernandez.

Make no bones about it, Bell Shoals Road is more pleasant to travel after the construction that widened the road from two to four lanes. While it used to be a 3-mile stretch made of traffic nightmares, commuters now revel in the ease of the drive and smile at a 12-foot skeleton named Pepper.

Pepper, also known as Skelly of Valrico, first greeted travelers on Bell Shoals Road in October of 2022. Legend has it that the road was so frightening at that time that he didn’t stay. When Halloween rolled around again, however, he could not resist coming back to see the family that hosted him on his first visit.

The Leisure family of seven loves the joy that Pepper brings. Carrie Leisure, his ‘mom,’ has always loved decorating for the holidays and said their location has given her a unique opportunity to share with the community. When they moved to the house off Bell Shoals Road, Carrie was excited to be on a main road where she could share her decorations with passersby.

“The reason that the skeleton is out there is because he stuck with the community. He is my decoration for all of the holidays now,” Leisure said. “Literally what everybody says is: Thanks for making us smile.”

Commuters, walkers and runners often stop to see Pepper. Two of his favorite friends, Olivia and Siena, left a letter expressing how much they enjoy seeing him on their way to St. Andrew’s Preschool. They also explained that they decided to call him Pepper (‘Peppa the Pig’ is a girl, so naturally he should be called Pepper). Skelly and the Leisures loved the name. The endearing letter was the first of many letters that the Leisures have enjoyed.

“I get great joy from the outpouring of love. You don’t know how many times I have heard, ‘I drive by your house every day on my way to work and I always look forward to seeing Pepper,’” Carrie said.

Pepper is on the north side of Bell Shoals (5112 Bells Shoals Rd.). He changes clothes often but only when there’s little traffic. To keep up with his wardrobe changes, visit @skelly.of.valrico on Facebook and @skelly_of_valrico on Instagram.

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