Concrete Christmas display brightens Cement Masons’ holiday party

When they arrive at their union’s holiday party tonight in New Brighton, active and retired members of Cement Masons Local 633 will find their training hall decked with festive Christmas concrete.

It’s a seasonal tradition the local’s apprentices carried on this year, with help from apprentices from Local 633’s sister union, Twin Cities Plasterers Local 265.

Together, they molded some 40 cubic yards of concrete into a gingerbread house, miniature hockey rink, candy-cane-shaped golf hole and other holiday displays spanning the entirety of the training center’s shop floor.

The display took six weeks to complete. Six different groups of apprentices, ranging from first- to third-year hands, each put in a week of work on the project under the supervision of Apprenticeship Coordinator Brian Farmer and instructors Pete Dubay and Moke Eaglefeathers.

Dave Schutta, Local 633’s business manager, said the display “covers the scope of work” union members do on job sites across the state every day: flat work, decorative work, highway and heavy jobs, curb-and-gutter work and more.

“We try to include everything we do into this project – with a twist, of course,” Schutta said.

[Click here to view a video of Farmer describing the work apprentices did on the project.]

The display has been a highlight of the union’s holiday party for the last eight years. More recently, apprenticeship instructors and staff began inviting neighbors and friends to visit the display, incorporating a food drive that netted 280 pounds of food for New Hope-based The Food Group last year.

“Members and especially retirees love to come to this party, get dinner, see old friends and experience what the apprentices have put together,” Schutta said. “They always seem to be amazed. Of course, some guys like to pick things apart a little bit in good fun, but for the most part everyone seems to appreciate the display and how our apprenticeship program has grown over the years.”

By tomorrow afternoon, the entire display will be demolished, making way for a new round of hands-on training.

Christmas doesn’t last forever.

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