Steel fish constructed by welding students at Kenai Central High School will adorn flower beds and planter boxes around Kenai this summer. Materials for the project were purchased with a $500 minigrant from the city of Kenai.
Photo by Will Morrow
Folks passing through Kenai this summer may notice something fishy with the flower beds and planters around town, but don’t worry it will be a good thing.
“I’m really excited to see them swimming around town,” said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, speaking of the metal fish being constructed by the welding classes at Kenai Central High School.
In fact, students have fabricated quite a school of fish, about 60 in all, to be placed among the flowers planted by the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department’s Beautification Committee.
“It’s just something cool to see,” said Aaron Agosti, a junior at Kenai Central who helped make the steel fish. “When we drive around town this summer and see these, and know that we did it, that’s pretty cool.”
Agosti, who is taking his fourth year of welding classes, said it was exciting to work on a project that was something different than what he normally does. Agosti said most classes are spent practicing different types of welds, and he’s completed a few small projects, such as grind rails for skateboarding and projects for the school, like a rack for athletic equipment or a set of hockey goals.
“Not only do you have to be good at welding, but you also need a little bit of artistic ability,” Agosti said.
The project was completed under the guidance of Kenai welding teacher Tom Burck, who applied for and received a minigrant of $500 from the city of Kenai to purchase the materials. Students used photos of fish as guides, and created wood templates. The templates were transferred to sheets of steel, and students used a plasma cutter to cut out each fish. Students then used the plasma cutter and a grinder to add details to each fish, such as eyes, gill plates and lateral lines.
“It was pretty fun, grinding them. It’s definitely nothing I’ve ever done before,” said Thomas Liddelow, also a junior at Kenai Central.
The fish have been mounted to rebar stakes in groupings of two or three to add a three-dimensional quality, and the final step was to dip them in a saltwater bath to give each piece a weathered look.
“With the rebar, they will sway in the wind, so they’ll look like they’re moving. It will give them a more lively appearance,” Agosti said.
Porter said the grant to make the fish was the first awarded in the city’s new “Together We Can” minigrant program.
“It’s a grant that the city of Kenai awards to organizations that have a good project that will benefit the entire community,” Porter said. “If anyone in the community, whether it be an organization or an individual, wants to do something, they can make an application. There’s a review committee that determines whether it’s a worthwhile project.”
Porter said she envisions other community groups working on flower beds or playground projects, and added that the project could benefit a neighborhood or the whole town. Minigrant applications are available at city hall.
Bob Frates, Kenai’s parks and recreation director, said he’s looking forward to seeing the fish around town this summer.
“Hopefully, they will have the appearance of leaping through the beds. They will definitely give the beds a new look. They’ll be an eye-catcher. I don’t know what we’ll call it fish don’t prance maybe schooling through the beds?”
Frates said the challenge for the gardeners planting the flower beds will be coordinating the height of the plants with the height of the fish.
“I think when the tourists are here this summer, it will be a conversation piece,” Frates said.
Both Frates and Porter said they were pleased to see high school students working on a project that will benefit the community.
“That’s the awesome thing about it. It certainly allows them to use their talents, then their talents get displayed out in the community. It’s a win-win project for everyone,” Frates said.
“I think it’s very important to involve the youth of the community. It means they’re going to care more about what happens in their town,” said Porter.
Burck said the project provided a good experience for his students.
“The kids got something out of it, and the city’s going to get something in return,” Burck said.
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