Sharks Join Flamingos on West Hartford Lawns in Support of Safe Grad

Conard freshman Lydia Griffin (right) with her sister Christina and their school of sharks. Photo courtesy of Keith Griffin

Residents can now request a school of sharks as an alternative to a flock of flamingos in support of the Class of 2019 Safe Grad celebration at West Hartford’s Conard High School.

A school of sharks on the Griffins West Hartford lawn. Photo courtesy of Keith Griffin

By Ronni Newton

The appearance of flamingos punctuating newly-green grass of West Hartford lawns has been synonymous with springtime for many years, as residents support high school safe graduation parties by surprising family, friends, and neighbors with the brightly-colored birds in honor of a graduate, birthday, new baby, or other occasion.

Conard High School shook things up last year by changing the color of its flocks from pink to the red in a nod to the school’s primary color, but this year the organizers of the Class of 2019 Safe Grad party have taken things one step further.

‘We were trying to think of something different, to spark some interest [in flocking],” said Dave Pauluk, one of the co-chairs of Conard’s flocking committee.

“Snazzy,” was the term used by Conard freshman Lydia Griffin to describe the school of sharks that she awoke to find Thursday morning on her lawn.

The Griffins were the first family in town to be “schooled” – the term used on the sign accompanying the school of gray plastic sharks.

“It’s a great cause and it was fun to have a lawn full of sharks!” said Lydia’s dad, Keith Griffin, who signed up as soon as he heard about the sharks.

Pauluk said that committee members, including his wife, Becky, had been brainstorming about ways to augment the traditional flamingo flocking. “Becky likes unicorns, and we thought of unicorns, doing a herd of unicorns,” Pauluk said, but once they really considered how to craft the unicorns, it seemed way too difficult.

Pauluk said he and his wife are both big fans of the snarky Facebook page “WeHa Enemies and Distant Cousins” (which offers sarcastic commentary on some of the posts that appear on the popular Neighbors and Friends in West Hartford Facebook page, as well as life in general in West Hartford). “Snarky the Shark” is the moniker of the “enemies” page.

“Becky and I are big fans of that page, and we thought it would be cool, with everyone so interested in sharks,” Pauluk said.

Pauluk initially tried to design the sharks himself. “I went to Lowes,” he said. “I’m really bad at spray painting,” he determined.

Pauluk spoke to Brian Cohen, Career and Technical Education supervisor for West Hartford Public Schools. Cohen enlisted the assistance of Conard Tech Ed teacher James Genovese and soon the Conard students, using CAD technology, had designed a delightfully snarky shark and crafted it out of plastic.

“It’s really, really cool,” Pauluk said. The students were even able to use the department’s cutting machines to make notches for where the colored tape – used to create the gills, mouth, and teeth on the sharks – should be placed.

Four big sharks were created, and then the committee asked if they could have fins, too.

A school of sharks can be arranged in a line, or in a circle. Courtesy of Conard Safe Grad

The plastic material was all donated, Pauluk said, and there was only so much of it. After the large fins were crafted, there was enough plastic left to make some smaller fins as well. “The baby shark fins make it look even better,” Pauluk said.

Hunter Marotto, a Conard sophomore and graphic arts student, said that a laser was used to make the outline on the vinyl material. It took a few weeks to create the entire school and associated fins, he said.

“The entire graphics department was involved in some way,” Marotto said. “Everyone who takes graphics was involved in the process.”

Pauluk said he went to Dollar Tree and bought some solar-powered lights, which will be installed on lawns along with the schools of sharks so they are more visible at night.

A school, which includes a shark and four large and four small fins, is $30 and can be delivered to any West Hartford lawn. The school will remain for at least two days, and will be delivered and picked up secretly by Conard parent volunteers.

A message is also included, stating that the recipient “got schooled by Conard Safe Grad.” Personal messages can also be added.

Flamingos are available as well, in regular flocks of 20 ($30) or jumbo flocks of 40 ($50), each with a message included.

Click here for more information or to order a school of sharks. Details about ordering flocks of flamingoes can be found here.

“It’s been really neat to see how they brought it all together, and I think it’s been a great lesson for them,” Pauluk said about the collaboration between the Safe Grad committee and the graphic arts students.

“I can also imagine the great pride they’ll have when they see the sharks around town,” he said.

West Hartford’s Hall High School Class of 2019 Safe Grad committee has also started its flocking fundraiser. Single flocks of pink flamingos are $25 and double flocks are $50. Click here for details.

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Christina (left) and Lydia (third from left in Conard lacrosse uniform) pose by the school of sharks with their cousins who just arrived from Spain, Rafael and Mar Canales-Soto. Photo courtesy of Keith Griffin

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