HAZARD – A highly skilled team of welding students from Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) in Prestonsburg took away top honors in southeastern Kentucky’s first-ever Welding Rodeo, held at the outdoor Amphitheater in downtown Hazard on Friday.
The four-person team, called Weld’er Up, won first place for their imaginative portrayal of a Kentucky catfish scuttling along a river bottom. The team had just eight hours during the one-day event to fabricate their fine arts sculpture out of pieces of scrap metal provided by the event’s organizers. For their creative effort, the team won a $400 prize.
Members of the first place winning team included Nathan Gudino of Louisa; Dustin Ramsey of Johnson County; Roger Johnson of Louisa; and Al Salmons of Prestonsburg. Their faculty advisor is John Fitzpatrick, a welding instructor at BSCTC.
Another team, called The Fighting Mongooses and made up of local artists from Hazard and Hindman, won the People’s Choice Award for their sculpture, a shiny, sturdy box turtle that was an instant hit among younger fans who obviously could not wait to climb up on top of it. The team’s artwork gathered the most votes among the three sculptures from attendees at the Welding Rodeo and later that evening at another celebration in downtown Hazard called the Haunted Harvest. They will share a $200 prize.
The Fighting Mongooses included Jill Robertson of Hazard; Meritt Conley of Hindman; Pam Farrell of Hazard; and Izzy Broomfield of Hazard.
The third team in the competition, the General Lees from Hazard Community and Technical College, also created a terrapin out of scrap metal during the event. Their creative artwork represented a large snapping turtle that seemed to rise from the river and be ready to strike.
The General Lees included David Barnett of Whitesburg; Michal Dylan Burton of Whitesburg; Zach Gayheart of Jackson; and James Mcintosh of Hazard. Their advisor is Randy Bowling, a welding instructor at HCTC.
All of the teams competing in this year’s competition had to create a scrap metal masterpiece that reflected this year’s theme, river creatures. The event’s organizers said they chose this theme because the North Fork of the Kentucky River runs through the heart of historic downtown Hazard and alongside the city’s newly dedicated River Arts Greenway, a civic space that includes walking trails, community gardens, and spaces for public art. Well wishers acknowledged the completion of phase one of the Greenway on the day before the Welding Rodeo, celebrating a handsome hand-built stone bridge built at the site by renowned southeastern Kentucky artist Jeff Chapman-Crane.
All three sculptures will be displayed at the Greenway in downtown Hazard, said Jenny Williams, chair of Pathfinders of Perry County, the local group in Hazard that has overseen the first stages in developing the River Arts Greenway, which won a coveted ArtPlace America grant for the project in June 2014.
The 2015 Welding Rodeo was a joint project between Pathfinders and Hazard Technical and Community College (HCTC), Williams said. A steering committee composed of faculty members and community volunteers from both organizations as well as other volunteers who have been working on the River Arts Greenway project spent months developing this year’s inaugural Welding Rodeo.
“I thought it all went very well for our first rodeo,” said Dr. Jennifer Lindon, dean of workforce solutions at HCTC’s Technical Campus in Hazard. She said that based on the positive experience enjoyed by all participants, the college and its community partner expect to stage a second welding rodeo next year.
Local and regional businesses also supported the competition. Sponsors included AAA Mine Services, Inc.; Black Hawk Mining, Lincoln Electric, Miller Welding, Morton Construction, Home Lumber Company, Inc.; Pine Branch Mining, Scott Gross Company, Inc. and Whayne Supply Company.
“I’m still giddy with how well it went and how much fun it all was!,” commented Williams, who teaches at HCTC. “In the end, our community is the real winner, because people can visit the River Arts Greenway to see firsthand these amazing works of art.”
The sculptures will be permanently placed along the Greenway as a public art installation.
Annie Williams of the Hazard Clinic came down to the Rodeo at lunch to see the progress and came back to see who won. “These sculptures are so beautiful! And they make the Greenway more than just a place to walk. They turn it into an arts destination,” Williams pointed out. “This gift of public art to our community is immense.”