Recap of Grand Opening ceremony

October 4th, 2011

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This past Saturday, a wonderful thing happened. The mayor of Windsor, the town councilmen, our Studio H students, 15 vendors, and about 100 residents of Bertie County joined us at the newly completed Windsor Super Market (farmers market) pavilion our high school students designed and built this past year. At 10am, we officially opened the market pavilion to the public, with a quick ceremony thanking all involved, and with a few key speakers including the mayor and Kerron, one of our star students. Our pal and fellow high school teacher Bruce Boller, played guitar as background musical entertainment. Mumms and pumpkins were scattered across the handrail, while balloons adorned the front driveway.

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While the market has been up and running since we launched it in May in its temporary location, this was the first Saturday the vendors were able to sell within the pavilion. The design of the pavilion allows trucks to pull up to their own loading dock, unloading goods right into the vendor booth. A long ramp along the front side of the structure serves as a sort of “front porch” and the main entrance for visitors. The entire ramp is sunken into the topography, so the structure bleeds into the site (also making for a great future pumpkin patch!). It was truly wonderful to see this labor of love come alive as people poured in, looked up at the high ceiling, out at the road, and approached vendor booths. We always told our students that “architecture isn’t architecture until you see people in it, walking through it, making it their own.” This was that moment when our project became real.

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As for the ceremony, I thanked everyone for coming and informed people that it is the only farmers market structure in the country (the world, maybe?) that was designed AND built by high school students. Smiles abounded, and in attendance was everyone from the mayor, town manager, high school teachers and principal, students and their parents, loyal produce buyers, the owners of our local hardware store, and many many more.

Then Kerron spoke passionately, and unscriptedly, about his experience with Studio H, saying it was the first class he actually enjoyed, where he “learned something new everyday.” He said that he was proud of the market, and that his goal was to “come back in 10 or 20 years” with his kids. We almost cried when he thanked us for a year that he would never forget.

I rattled through my list of thank yous, from the Town of Windsor to the many visitors and friends who helped us along the way, Pitt Community College, Boyd Copeland our large machinery operator, Jimmy and Marsha from Bertie Builders, and many many others. I passed the mic to the Mayor of Windsor, Jimmy Hoggard, who thanked us profusely and then gave us the key to the city, which is a) an actual physical key, and b) doubles as a bottle opener. Apparently the town of Windsor has only given a key to the city to one other organization. At this point, I was again almost in tears.

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Lastly, I spoke briefly about the design of the structure, the influence of vernacular architectural inspiration, vendor and pedestrian access, and why the market as an enterprise is a great feat for the community. Tom from the River Center spoke about the market’s upcoming events this fall, and the April-October 2012 season. Before signing off, Matt made a heartfelt statement to the crowd about the market being “a citizen’s market,” and that just because we built the structure, it is all of our responsibilities to keep it going, to support the local growers, and to show up every weekend. With that, there was applause, and some tears, and I thanked everyone once again before we all went back to shopping for fresh local fare.

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The market stayed open until 1pm, and since some of our students were taking the SAT that morning, many of them came at 1:30 after the test was over. This group showed up with googly eyes, not having seen the building since mid-August, and astonished at the final result. They also presented myself and Matt with a gift – a packet of hand-written thank you notes (again, tears), and a large wrench they had all signed. On the last day of school we gave them each a Studio H “trophy,” a large galvanized bolt engraved with an “H” and “2011.” This wrench was their response to our trophy. They thanked us for an amazing year, in an amazing moment of closure, reflection, and a bit of nostalgia. Kerron had reminded us in his letter of all the memories we had made, including “the time I fell over with the wheelbarrow and everyone was crying with laughter” and building the deck with our builder friend, “Wando.”

The opening ceremony and entire day were heartfelt and celebratory, and a great moment for all of us to step back and look at what we had done. Our students really do feel as if they own that building – not literally, but that it stands in their hometown because of their sweat. And it is no lie that the market would not exist without their vision, and without all of our hard work, and without the partnership of key people and groups in Bertie County who, despite a small band of constant and outspoken critics, came together to build arguably the most progressive piece of architecture AND local enterprise the county has seen in decades. We are proud of what we’ve done, but more than pride, we feel an immense gratitude to those who we know will make sure that the market succeeds, and to our students for sticking with us this year and building something amazing.

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About

Studio H is a public high school "design/build" curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, creative projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and "dirt-under-your-fingernails" construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

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