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Ridgewater Welding Partners with Willmar Police for K-9 Statue
April 28, 2023
Months of brainstorming and hard work came together on Wednesday, April 26, when the Willmar Police Department (WPD) dedicated a unique canine statue, thanks to Ridgewater College’s Welding program.
For several months, Ridgewater Welding students and faculty have been working to create a life-size, stainless steel German Shepard sculpture to recognize the value of K-9 officers within the police, emergency and military services.
“We were approached last summer by Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt to build a sculpture to display in their lobby,” said Cody Sarsland, Ridgewater Welding instructor. “We’ve had numerous students involved in bending, cutting and welding the many pieces of this sculpture and are excited to install and help dedicate it.”
Police Chief Felt had the vision. He said he is a dog lover and had been pondering ideas for recognizing K-9s. “Everyone can rally around dogs,” he said. So he began looking online for ideas and was drawn to a Russian artist’s design that was a sort of metal origami. After exploring possible fundraising to purchase and ship a sculpture from the artist, Felt instead decided to reach out to Ridgewater to see if Welding faculty and students wanted to take on the project. The WPD had had a great partnership with the former Ridgewater Carpentry program when students built boxes and ladders to help train canines.
“The artist was selling his plans on how to create the sculpture so our department purchased the plans and Cody and his students made it happen,” Felt said. Fortunately, fundraising wasn’t even necessary because the project was created from scrap metal and materials donated from local businesses. In addition, the Ridgewater Auto Body Collision Repair students volunteered to put a finishing touch on the work with a protective clear coat.
“The project was a perfect fit in our second-year Fabrication classes,” Sarsland said. “The students learned how to communicate with each other on each step of fabrication to end up with well-finished, complicated project. I also believe it helps students feel comfortable with our local police. We had great interactions and conversations with Police Chief Felt in our shop. Students learned that welding job opportunities can come from a place you don’t typically think of. We were happy to donate our time and skills as a class to the ones who help protect us. It’s the least we could do.”