Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gingerbread kids swing, skip and seesaw at Spanaway Park

Everyone knows the fairy tale of the spirited gingerbread boy, who chants, “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!” But at this year’s Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park, you won’t have to go very far to catch these gingerbread boys and girls.

Visitors will get to know these playful gingerbread kids who sparkle as they skip rope, swing and seesaw to and fro at the park along Spanaway Lake. Reaching as high as 14 feet, this resplendent scene is the result of months of hard work and planning by students in a handful of Bates' career education programs.

For the 15th consecutive season, our students have come together to construct fun displays in what has become a shining example of teamwork.

Starting as early as summer quarter, welding students Timothy Sweeney and Justin Hathaway began to form the displays. The students first laid out the design, and then they began to bend, cut and weld the pieces together to form the framework.

“Tim and Justin used a hand-drawn sketch that Pierce County’s Parks and Recreation Department provided to design and build the metal form of the displays,” said Welding instructor Rick Huston. 

At the end of October, with the displays finished, students in the Commercial Truck Driving-Entry Level program transported them to Spanaway Park for painting. Next, students enrolled in electronics from either the Biomedical Service Technician: Clinical Engineering or the Electronic Equipment Service Technician programs wired the displays to bring life to the structures.

About 40 students designed and installed the wiring for the thousands of tiny lights that come alive and give movement to the scene. 

After verifying the programming for the Programmable Logic Controller, a computer-operated light switch used to automate the display, students spent the next few days tediously securing electrical wiring to the frame with more than 3,000 zip ties. Then, they tested the system to ensure that the electrical equipment worked properly, and that the timing and movement were accurate. 

“Using electronics know-how to build animated and lighted displays helps students understand many of the elements of sequencing, wiring and other program competencies,” said Art Cutting, an instructor for the biomedical and electronic equipment service programs.  “These are important skills when students get ready to enter the workforce.”

From a snowboarding Santa to a magical train piled high with colorful toys, visitors enjoy Bates’ brilliant displays around every bend.

Bates’ original 1996 installation, daffodils and tulips at the base of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, still welcomes visitors who first enter the park. Since then, students have contributed countless displays, including gigantic dinosaurs, a Harley-riding Santa, jumping frogs, and a delicious gingerbread house situated along enchanting Candy Cane Lane.

“Our participation is another example of Bates’ community involvement,” said President Lyle Quasim. “Fantasy Lights is a fun and rewarding tradition for our students, and we are proud to be a part of it each holiday season.”

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park
Join the holiday spirit at Spanaway Park, located just west of 152nd Street and Pacific Avenue in the Parkland/Spanaway community. Fantasy Lights is open Nov. 24-Jan. 1, 2012, 5:30-9 p.m., and is $13 per vehicle. You can purchase discount tickets in advance. Click here to learn more.