It takes a lot of work from a lot of volunteers to get the Rochester Country Fairgrounds ready, and students at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School are learning the importance of that work within their community.
Before school commenced in late June, students from the Metal Fabrication, Carpentry, Electrical and Graphic Design shops at Old Colony all had a hand in preparing the Fairgrounds for next week’s events.
Those arriving at the Fairgrounds this weekend will notice a change in the main gate’s appearance: Earlier this summer, students and teachers designed and erected a new 18-foot-long archway that is sure to be a welcoming sight for many of the Fair’s patrons.
Dave Souza and Julie Koczera, the Fair’s Co-Chairmen, recruited instructors Mike Richard and Doug Desrochers of the Metal Fabrication shop at Old Colony to oversee a team of students to design and fabricate the huge steel sign for the Fairgrounds, which will celebrate its second year there after a move from Plumb Corner.
“I gave it to my seniors to come up with a design,” said Richard, who noted that they started the project last November. “After we came up with the final draft, we found a font we liked and gave it to Graphic Design, and they printed out full-size stencils.”
From there, Richard said the students hand-cut the steel letters, which were then welded to the cross beams that they had measured to the two wooden poles already in existence at Gate A of the Fairgrounds. Fortunately for the crew of volunteers, the final product fit well to the poles, and shortly after finishing the archway in early June, it was hung using a bucket truck and a logging truck owned by volunteer Dave Grime. Richard said that students from every grade worked on the project, and that surprisingly, his freshman students did about 50 percent of the welding on it.
“All of the classes had a little piece of it,” Richard said, “and if it wasn’t for the freshmen, I don’t think we would have gotten it done.”
So far, the sign has gotten a great response from those who have seen it, including some people from the Westport Country Fair who recently visited the site.
“The comments [on the sign] have been unbelievable,” said Mike Forand, who volunteers there regularly and who also teaches the Electrical shop at Old Colony. “Everything worked out well.”
Forand’s Electrical students have also spent countless hours working at the Fairgrounds over the last two years, laying thousands of feet of wiring among all the other electrical work that’s been done there. Students in the Carpentry shop at Old Colony have also constructed two new ticket booths that were just recently dropped off at the Fairgrounds for next week’s events.
“They’ve learned about the business end of a shovel,” said Forand, who added that projects like this are a very valuable resource for teachers trying to prepare students for their futures in an entrepreneur’s world. “It’s a huge part of the teaching process.”
By Nicholas Walecka