Mount Airy High School’s Interact Club wants to continue, by its own admission, to be a small club with a big impact locally. Interact President Douglas Cao, Historian Abby Hagwood and Publication Manager Emma Harrison look at the group’s first float in Mount Airy Christmas parade as a symbol of this.
“Some (Mount Airy) Rotary members wanted to do a float for the parade,” said Harrison. “We decided to partner with them.” Cao said the club has a history of working with the rotary on projects which center on community involvement. For instance, the group has raised $2,000 to help Rotary’s polio eradication efforts.
Cao said what they considered routine was seen in another light during an Interact conference where groups from larger schools were surprised at the ambitious slate of projects his club has accomplished and began asking questions on how to motivate their members. He said the Mount Airy club has ten members and is happy to see Interact expand in Surry County.
Hagwood said she feels the group has benefited from working with adult Rotary members. Harrison agreed and said the partnership seems to have allowed the high school group to be taken “more seriously” by the public. The strong base of volunteers didn’t cushion the realization the group only had a few weeks to complete the float.
Cao said the three of them sought donations for materials to build a float and get as much done as they could before they were at the conference leaving Hagwood to oversee the final details during their Thanksgiving. The design quickly fell into place once they decided to make Rotary’s Gear symbol the centerpiece of the float. The slogan for their creation was “Gearing up to give back,” which has become the group’s credo as well.
“The time frame we had to do this in was a real scrunch,” Harrison said. “Two weekends went by before we realized we had only two weeks to do this. We thought on that first weekend we’d have the elements finished in two hours. We knew we had to be finished by that Tuesday. It took so much longer than we thought.”
The three said they were putting finishing touches on it in between classes. They also said the experience had its humorous points including using a coconut knife at an off campus location to finish shaping ten feet long sessions of foam. Transporting the elements in Hagwood’s vehicle before attaching them to a borrowed trailer also proved a logistical challenge.
Initially, they discovered they had forgotten to bring something to trim the foam and at one point used swim paddles to shape the foam, taking up two parking spaces in the Lowes Home Improvement parking lot. Then the gear had to be covered in newspaper. Much of this had to be done in spite of cold, rainy weather. Cao said they transported everything in 50-gallon trash bags.
“We got it done but it was an adventure,” said Harrison as she and Hagwood agreed Cao was the only artistic one of the group. “What really helped ups all is that we each have good planning and organizational skills.”
“On the morning of the parade we found out there was a gap down the middle of the trailer so we had to strategically place things around that space,” said Hagwood.”We were proud we were able to finish the float under budget and we used a lot of recycled materials and really looked at prices.”
The group operated with a $400 in funding for the float.
She said coming in under budget allowed the club to buy the “good” candy which filled her house with the smell of chocolate as club members separated the treats prior to the parade.
“I think people know us more (because of the float) because we are being seen out helping in the community,” said Hagwood. “Knowing we don’t have a huge club yet we are stronger than some other clubs we’ve seen means something.” The three agreed the club is strongly supported by mostly juniors and seniors and is now seeking to attract underclassmen to keep the tradition of good works going.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 336-719-1952.