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ribbon cutting at Adirondack chair at Huddy Park

With representatives from M&T Bank, the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Toms River Township, Toms River Artist Community (TRAC), and students from High School South, the ribbon is officially cut on the downtown Art District's first piece-- a giant Adirondack chair built by students.

First piece for Arts District

South students post in Adirondack chair

High School South students proved the chair they built can hold plenty of people.

Oct. 18, 2023: They started out around the school, fixing High School South's bleachers and the benches for the softball team.

Then they forged custom-made cornhole boards for school staff, friends, and local businesses.

In 2022, they built much-needed lifeguard stands for Ortley Beach.

Now, their most recent project: a giant Adirondack chair for downtown Toms River.

Each year, students enrolled in Project SPEAR-IT-- the HSS CTE and construction program funded by the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (UWMOC)-- envision a capstone project, something to help improve the school, people's lives, or the broader community. That vision progressed from utilitarian projects to, this year, more of an artistic endeavor, although all of the work these students undertake requires some serious skills.

This time around, the Toms River Artists Community (TRAC) served as the project partner and guiding force.

"We all had a hand in this," said TRAC's Lisa Cifaretto, referring to her organization, UWMOC, M&T Bank, Toms River Township and, of course, the student builders. "And I am so very proud about that."

Although the giant chair has already become a main attraction and optimal photo op, everyone involved in its creation came together today in downtown Toms River for an official ribbon cutting and celebration.

"This is a big event for Toms River," said Cifaretto. "This represents the first piece of art being donated to the 'Arts District' in Downtown."

chair signage for United Way and spearit

It was indeed a joint effort, with M&T Bank providing funding for supplies, TRAC members painting and beautifying the piece, as well as arranging its delivery to Huddy Park (no small feat), and Toms River Township approving its installation as the signature piece of the new Arts District.

The weather was ideal for the joyous affair, which was attended by Toms River Mayor Mo Hill, members of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from UWMOC, TRAC, M&T Bank, and the township.

The architects of the chair were the ones who felt most comfortable occupying its giant seating area, and these students were the ones everyone wanted their photo with. Understandably so.

So, what's the capstone project for this year, 2023-2024? We don't know yet. All we know is that it's sure to make people happy, and their lives better for it.

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