Each year for the past few years a very dedicated volunteer crew lead by Russell Raftary has hauled boxes of tiles to Wheatland, set up an elaborate work area, manned the area during festival, and then hauled the tiles home to be kiln fired as a fund raiser for Wheatland. Hundreds of people have donated $10 apiece to paint a tile adding much needed income to Wheatland. Some of those tiles have been installed on the four pedestals that mark the Arts and Crafts Area, one on each corner.
There were many more tiles than could be displayed on the pedestals. So, after brainstorming, Russell, along with other WMO volunteers agreed that seating in key areas of the farm would be useful. Before the group started the benches, attention was turned to a wall at Kid’s Hill that needed something to brighten up the plain concrete block wall. The group decided to use some of the handmade tiles in conjunction with the beautiful slate tile donated by the Joe Hayes family; the same slate used on the entrance floor of the WMO office. The Kid’s Hill wall was completed in 2007 by Dan Hummel, Frank Chvojka, Jim Grace, Bill Tyler and Jim McLachlan
In 2008, the first two benches were built around Kid’s Hill area. They were built by Russell Raftary, Tom Murphy, Randy Trominski, Chris Raftary, Kirk Roth, Suzanne Smith and Walt Riebeck. These benches were covered with the same “Hayes” slate by Dan Hummel, Frank Chvojka and Jim McLachlan. The bench located up the hill to the south of the dance stage was covered with mosaic glass in a design created by artist Diana Nickerson, assisted by several WMO volunteers.
In the early part of 2009 Russell Raftary and his talented crew of volunteers built six more of the benches. Two of the benches are located on the top of the sand hill at Kid’s Hill, and the other four are south of the dance stage. Congratulations (and a big thank you) to Russell and his crew for their master construction efforts on behalf of Wheatland. Once built the benches were turned over to the ‘slate’ crew who had Mark Coss and Michael Little added to it. They transformed the plain concrete benches into beautiful yet functional works of art.
More benches are being planned for the future. Donations can be made for a memorial bench with a plaque on it. Information on memorial benches is available from the office.
This year Russell and his crew will be hosting the tile project again. He is located in the arts and crafts area, behind the raffle tent, so if you would like to come and paint one, this is the year to do it. Check for the hours that the tile project is open at the festival.