Pilot story and photos
by Susan Schell
Curry County residents and visitors alike are once again enjoying the splendor of walking amongst the colored lights at Azalea Park.
Nature's Coastal Holiday sparkles with plant, animal and sea creature-shaped sculptures adorned with lights.
Students from Brookings-Harbor High School have helped out over the years by building some of the figures that grace the holiday display.
The sculptures are a project students work on during the year in teacher Steve Kucharski's beginning and advanced engineering class.
The students have adorned the park with such figures as a heron, bee, bear, swan, shark, fish, flowers and butterfly, among other things.
The giant red bear with the blue toenails is a favorite among park visitors.
The students start with a metal frame and weld it into the shapes of the beings they plan to create.
Michael Kraycheek, a high school senior, said the students use solid round stock and a blow torch to heat up the metal and bend it into shape.
The frames are then wrapped with tiny Christmas lights which bring the creature to life in the dark.
Generally, the students work on one figure each year, but this year it was revamp time. Flowers and other display items were brought into the shop to receive a fresh coat of paint.
"We repainted some of the stuff to get rid of the rust," Kraycheek said. Last year's butterfly was also brought in for an adjustment.
"Instead of having the wings out, we had to put them up," Kraycheek said.
Apparently, the butterfly's wingspan took up too much space while in storage. It's wings were reshaped into a vertical position.
Kraycheek helped build the butterfly last year and reflected on the changes made.
"Last year we just painted it with neon paint and put a black light on it," he said.
"This year we put chicken wire around it and put lights on it.
"We did an awful lot of welding. That was the hard part."
The stringing of the lights on the creature's skinny legs also posed a challenge for the young artisans.
Kraycheek said each entity created for the display has to meet a certain criteria.
"It has to be able to stand up on its own, it has to be self-supportive. And it has to be able to survive an Oregon winter."
Another senior, Adam Smith, said when the sculptures were finished they were loaded onto Kucharski's truck and hauled down to the park. The students then carried the figures put them in place themselves.
"It takes about three guys to move them," Smith said. "They're actually more awkward than heavy."
The students said they worked on the project for about a week.
"It's cool because it gives us something to build that the public gets to see," Kraycheek said.
"It gives us something to do," Smith added.
"Then everyone (at the park) gets to experience what we made."
Nature's Coastal Holiday will run daily through Dec. 29 from 5 to 9 p.m., rain or shine.
Admission is $1 for adults; children under 12 years free.