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Centennial Job Corps Welders Featured Alongside the 2016 Capitol Christmas Tree

Photo of a wooden sign; An Idaho Mountain Gem, Capitol Christmas Tree, Payette National Forest, 2016Each year, one state is chosen to provide the Christmas tree that rises in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This year, that tree is coming from the Payette National Forest in the great state of Idaho.

 In early April 2016, the Payette National Forest approached Centennial Job Corps’ welding program to ask if its students could take an artist’s design and create a sign to accompany the Capitol Christmas tree as it made its way across the country to Washington, D.C. 

Upon first seeing the artist’s design, Welding Instructor Kris Johnson thought the project might be beyond his students’ capabilities, due to the intricate cuts needed to bring the drawing to life in a piece of metal art. However, because of Johnson’s close relationship with the College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) welding program, he decided to ask the college to assist Centennial’s welders with its Computer Numerical Control (CNC) plasma cutting table. The goal was to have CWI complete the metal cutting and for the Centennial welding shop to weld the cut pieces.

In September, CWI went to work. CWI did an outstanding job cutting an intricate tree, the state of Idaho, fire tower, letters, and snowflakes. Johnson and his welders then laid out the pieces. After coming up with the idea to make the sign a three dimensional art piece, the student welders went back to CWI to use its metal rolling machines to curve the metalwork and add depth to the design. They then brought the pieces back to Centennial, laid out the design, tack welded it and made sure that each piece fit correctly before completing the final welds.

Photo of a student with safety glasses and respiratory mask working with a piece of metal.Centennial’s welding students, led by students Wing Tift and Hayden Ayres, painted the tree, fire tower, and snowflakes after which Wing applied a solution of bleach and vinegar to the steel pieces. The bleach and vinegar mixture created a rusty patina and gave the metal its aged, rustic appearance. Student Ryan Shearer then polished the sign.

Johnson realized that his welders needed to create a sign for the sculpture that gave credit to Centennial Job Corps and CWI. He asked CWI to use its CNC plasma cutting table to cut an oval sign with the words “Centennial Job Corps” along with the Job Corps logo and the words “College of Western Idaho” and the school’s logo. Student Zach Yates then applied a machine finish to the aluminum sign giving it a bold look.

Once all of the welding, coloring, and finishing were complete Johnson assigned student Colton Poindexter the job of designing and fabricating a tripod stand that would allow the public to view the sign. Student Wing Tift then rusted the stand. The next step was to prepare the sign for transport for its 3,000 mile trip to Washington.

Photo of a student grinding a piece of metal.The task to design and construct a traveling case for the sign fell to Instructor Brian Wise and his facilities maintenance students. The students were determined to create a case that would protect the sign. They took careful measurements and placed support spacers to hold the sign in place for its journey across the United States inside a case that provided superior support and padding to protect this work of art.

While Centennial Job Corps was busy building its sculpture, the Payette National Forest was cutting a magnificent tree using an old wilderness tool--the two person crosscut saw. The cuts took several hours to make, and once the sawyers had the majority of the tree’s weight held by a crane, they made the final cut.

The tree is 84 years old and 80 feet tall. Two cranes laid the tree on the custom built tractor and trailer, and it was packaged for its cross country trip.  The top 10 feet of the tree were enclosed in a plexi-glass viewing area with decorations created by the young students in Idaho’s elementary schools. Centennial Job Corps’ sign was picked up on November 4, 2016, and accompanied the tree on its tour of Idaho.

The tree, along with the Big  Idaho Potato Truck packed with approximately 18,000 ornaments inside its potato, traveled together to D.C. Upon the tree’s arrival in Washington, these ornaments are placed on the tree.

The Payette National Forest invited Centennial’s welding students to the Idaho State Capitol for the November 7, 2016, tree dedication. They heard speeches from Governor Butch Otter, Idaho’s First Lady Laurie Otter, and Idaho members of congress Jim Risch, Mike Crapo and Raul Labrador. After speeches by the dignitaries were concluded, Centennial students and staff were honored to get a picture with the Idaho congressional delegation beside the sign.        

In Idaho, it is an honor and a privilege to have a little piece of our state in the U.S. Capitol. To know that a sculpture created by Centennial student’s will be standing alongside the official Capitol Christmas Tree is a great feeling.

Centennial Job Corps students always rise to the challenges that present themselves and in this case they set the bar at a whole new level. Way to go Job Corps!

View all the photos in the slide show.

Photo of a season greeting that reads - Centennial Job Corps, Nampa, Idaho Wishes all of America a very Merry Christmas! Photo of an instructor and student working on metal art. Photo of an instructor and student working on metal art. Photo of a student spraying metal to oxidize it. Photo of the sign that is on the side of the trailer that is transporting the tree.


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