EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 22, 2013

'Floating' toward the end of an era

Teachers retiring after helping students build top parade floats for 19 years

HAVERHILL — Every November for the last 19 years, the art room at Whittier Regional High has looked the same.

Paints and other materials designed to create Christmas characters cluttered the room.

Students swarmed around the project, banging nails, painting and gluing — doing whatever it took to make the effort a success.

And all of it happened under the watchful eyes of art teacher Sharon Welch and carpentry teacher Dan Sullivan, who guided the students each of those 19 years toward making floats for the city’s annual VFW Santa Parade. The Whittier floats won awards at the parade 17 of those 19 years.

Tomorrow’s parade marks the end of an era, with Welch and Sullivan retiring at the end of this school year. The Whittier float in tomorrow’s event is the last one the two teachers will help the students create.

“It’s been quite a run,’’ Sullivan said. “I’ve worked with some great kids over the years. Now, we see a lot of those students from 10 or 15 years ago along the route, and they have their children at the parade.’’

Sullivan called Welch “the creative force behind every float.’’

“I just put them together,’’ he said.

Welch had little time to talk, as she drilled and hot glued the last characters in place with her students before yesterday’s final school bell rang.

“It’s been a blast,’’ Welch said. “We’ve done it again and it feels good. As always, the kids come through. My favorite part is the collaboration between all the shops and how it brings a great sense of school spirit.’’

Tomorrow’s parade kicks off at 1 p.m. after judging of the floats at Hunking School in Haverhill. This year’s parade theme is “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,’’ but the event’s rules stipulated there could be no reference to Santa on the floats.

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