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Led by High Schoolers, a Village is Built
Playhouses are centerpiece of Home and Garden Showcase
Vince Semenza and Matt Stahlberg, from left, hold the long end of wood trim to steady it as Jon Weber cuts a piece to line one of the windows of a playhouse being built by students at Flathead High School. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
As the housing industry recovers in the Flathead Valley, students at Flathead and Glacier high schools have decided to build a village – or at least two houses for a village.

At the Flathead Building Association’s Home and Garden Showcase on March 19-21 at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, six playhouses will be displayed as the expo’s centerpiece. Collectively, they will be called the “DreamBuilders’ Village.”

The playhouses are roughly 8 feet wide and long and 8 feet tall, give or take a couple of feet. They will be raffled off to raise money for the Nurturing Center in Kalispell, an organization that provides support, education and resources to families in Northwest Montana.

The DreamBuilders fundraiser is in its 14th year. This is the second year the playhouses have been displayed at the FBA showcase. Raffle tickets are $3 each or five for $10. All proceeds go to the Nurturing Center. It’s the first time in 10 years that local high schools have contributed to the DreamBuilders program.

In addition to the two playhouses built by students at Flathead and Glacier high schools, four local builders have pitched in to give the fundraiser six playhouses total. Finely constructed, with wiring, lights and an inside play area, the houses are ideal for hours of backyard fun for kids.

The other four builders are Sliters Ace Hardware, Tim Rogge Construction, Datum Drafting and Design and Glimm Homes. Also, local quilter Delphia Blumenthal has fashioned an indoor playhouse out of quilted panels in memory of Susan Christofferson, the Nurturing Center’s founder who passed away last year.

After the Home and Garden Showcase, the playhouses will be on display at the Kalispell Center Mall on March 22 through April 17. Jennifer Rogge, DreamBuilder’s coordinator at the Nurturing Center, said the showcase is a nice complement to the traditional display at the mall.

“Thousands of people go through the showcase and see them,” Rogge said.

Flathead Building Association’s Home and Garden Showcase is held each year to kick off the building season. Until this year, it was called the Building Showcase.

Patti Gregerson, FBA’s executive director, said the expo traditionally has been more geared toward builders and industry insiders. And while the event will still appeal to those insiders, this year’s showcase is more focused on homebuyers and homeowners, Gregerson said.

Though new house starts are still slow, Gregerson said remodels are picking up. She hopes the expo can be a valuable resource for these do-it-yourselfers. There will be a series of instructional seminars to help with installing patios, improving home performance and other building tips.

At the expo, homebuyers and homeowners will also find booths set up by experts in cabinetry, countertops, flooring, lighting, appliances, furniture, landscape design and pretty much anything home-related. Last year, about 3,000 people attended the event. This year, with the emphasis on helping homeowners and buyers, Gregerson is hoping for 6,000 or more.

There will also be three booths set up by affordable housing experts, with information on tax-credit options and affordable housing availability in the valley, Gregerson said.

“Folks have felt like it’s been more of a trade show in the past,” Gregerson said. “We’re revamping the show this year.”

Last week, students from Flathead High School’s drafting class were busy trying to get their playhouse ready before the March 19 deadline. Brock Anderson, the instructor, said his students were working diligently during each day’s one-hour class period, but needed more time. Students voluntarily came in on weekends.

The students at Flathead High School were working off of a design from senior Matt Stahlberg. Each of the senior drafting students submitted a playhouse design and Stahlberg’s was selected as the model. Interior design students also contributed to the project.

“I’ve designed before, but nothing that’s ever been built before,” Stahlberg said. “So that’s kind of cool.”

At Glacier High School, students from three different classes – drafting, woods and housing and interior design – built a playhouse with a fire station theme. Andy Fors, one of the project’s instructors, said the completed house would be red and white, with a fire pole and a mini fire truck attached to the outside.

Just like at Flathead, Fors said Glacier’s students have been so excited about the project that they don’t mind coming in on their own time to work.

“It’s great,” Fors said. “They show up every chance they get just to work on it. This is the first time we’ve done it. I hope this is a permanent thing.”
 
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