Welding program students at Bates Technical College get “spacey”

Posted: December 05, 2022

Sparkling Space Needle debuts at Fantasy Lights 

For nearly 30 years, Bates Technical College’s Welding program students have created festive displays for Spanaway Park’s Fantasy Lights event. This year is no different.  

An iconic Seattle spire will make an appearance in 2022. While the original stands 605 feet, the student-built sparkling Space Needle reaches 20 feet high and serves up stunning sights for everyone driving through the park at this annual holiday light display.  

This valued partnership between the college and Pierce County Parks and Recreation offers our students valuable hands-on experience every year but planning for these displays begins much earlier than you might guess.  

Each year, Parks and Recreation staff provide the Welding program instructors with a sketch of the proposed design. Then, the students work to match the sketch and tailor the display for use in the park. During the fall quarter, a group of eager students formed the displays, laying out the design and grid on the shop floor. This year, students Derick Ward and Clayton Frickel worked together to bend, cut and weld the pieces together to form the shimmering Space Needle. 

Welding program instructor Ian Armstrong welcomes the hands-on education this project brings. “Students are learning bending, fitting, and overall fabrication and welding skills. It’s an excellent experience to prepare them for industry,” says Armstrong.  

By mid-October, the project is completed, transferred to the park, and dressed in glimmering lights.  

Students Derick Ward and Clayton Frickel, pictured here with Welding program instructor Ian Armstrong, worked together to bend, cut and weld the pieces together to form the shimmering Space Needle.

 Counting the dazzling Bates-built scenes and figures in the park will keep you busy. You can find scores of our students’ work around each bend of the 2.2-mile drive-through event, including last year’s display of the stalking Sasquatch. Bates students have built more than 130 display pieces for Fantasy Lights. The bright, giant pirate ship, rows of sunny daffodils and cherry-red tulips, swimming sea creatures like the whale introduced in 2018, troupes of twinkling elves, Old Man Winter and a giant dinosaur are just a few of the shining displays the college has contributed to Fantasy Lights. 

Creative holiday scenes and strong community partners make Fantasy Lights a truly unique and festive experience—one that has become a cherished relationship for the college.  

“This rewarding relationship with Fantasy Lights began nearly 30 years ago and shines a light on this truly colorful hands-on learning tradition for our students,” said Dr. Lin Zhou, Bates Technical College president. “Every holiday season, we look forward to being a part of it.” 

About Bates Technical College  

Founded in 1940, Bates Technical College is a public college that offers certificate and degree opportunities in 45+ career education programs and serves approximately 3,000 career training students and 5,000 more community members annually in extended learning, distance learning, high school, and other programs. For more information, go to BatesTech.edu, or call 253.680.7000.  

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