Ever since craftsmen have been constructing tall buildings there has been a celebration when the top beam or steel girder is put in place that has become known as a “Topping Out” celebration, sometimes referred to as topping off. Iron Workers of Local 751 recently held a Topping Out celebration at the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College (KPC). “We send a flag up to the highest point of the building to respect and our love of country and a tree on the other end of the beam to represent prosperity and growth which has been a tradition for us for as long as anyone can remember,” Iron Worker Jake Rider told the Dispatch in an interview at the ceremony. The girder was also autographed by the local iron workers which is also a tradition explained Rider.
Three of the local iron workers Jim Daggett, Jake Rider and Chad Viert are KPC alumni completing their welding certificate under the instruction of Fritz Miller, KPC associate professor of welding. “My uncle was an iron worker and I went to KPC right here and after finishing my certificate the steel workers union was the first to call me. It feels pretty cool to be back on campus and practicing my trade that I learned here,” said Rider. “This is exciting and another milestone for the college and the community. This is a special celebration today especially when three of the workers are KPC alumni, that makes the raising of the flag and the symbolism of the tree just perfect. We keep growing with the support of the legislature and our local borough assembly we are so encouraged by the support we get from everyone and can’t say enough thanks to everybody,” commented KPC director Gary Turner. “We are on time and on budget for both the Career and Technical Center and the student housing project and things are looking great and the complexion of our campus is changing enormously. Hats off to the men and women who have been working on these projects in this kind of weather in the cold and the snow I really appreciate what they do,” said Turner.
With about 40 spectators and several members of the local media witnessing the moment, four iron workers from Alaska’s Iron Workers Local 751, lifted the last major steel beam for the building’s super structure and bolted it into place as part of a traditional “topping out” ceremony. Union tradesmen on the job included Ben Kohler, Jim Daggett, Jake Rider and Chad Viert. They indicated that it felt good to be back at KPC and to see how the college is growing.
“We have felt welcomed by everyone and it is good to see union ironworkers back on a Peninsula project, it’s been a while,” Daggett said. “We have about three weeks of additional welding and detail work before our part of the job is done.”
Blazy Construction, Inc. is the contractor on the Career & Technical Center project and Supervisor Mack Pate was present to oversee the event. Kelly Keating, Blazy Construction president, said that he just was notified that his is the only company in Alaska that has received the American Institute of Steel Construction certification as steel erectors.