Astute Trumansburg residents may have noticed a new display at Rotary Circle, the garden patch on Main Street in front of Ron Don’s Village Pub. That large, multicolored sign reading “2020” is a recent artist’s tribute to the class of 2020, and coupled with that is a time capsule for graduates to memorialize their class for the next 20 years.
The display, the brainchild of beloved Rotarian, blacksmith and artist Durand Van Doren, also consists of a congratulatory sign and a lighted-halo photo booth, with background art by local artist Nicole Costa, according to a recent press release.
Van Doren said that the display and time capsule was his way of trying to bring a smile to seniors who have faced a particularly rough few months.
“We have a new member who has two daughters who are seniors at the high school and … they can’t have a normal graduation,” Van Doren said. “And so, we thought we’d try and do something nice for them. And I came up with the idea of a time capsule because they have a reunion in 20 years. … And I thought that would be fun as an idea, trying to look at 20 years in the future, what that will look like.”
The photo booth was set up so seniors can put selfies in the capsule if desired, Van Doren said.
“It’s a nice place where you sit on a stool, and there’s a little place to put your cell phone so you can do it by yourself,” he said. “Set the timer and if you wind the camera up right, you’ll get a nice picture with a little halo around your head. And it will look like you were such an angel.”
Bringing the idea into reality required a lot of leg work, Van Doren said. He had to ask for permission from a variety of village residents, like Mayor Rordan Hart, teachers at the high school and some graduating seniors. Hart said that when he heard about the proposal, he was immediately on board.
“I thought it was a great idea, as I have been working with various groups on ways to show support and appreciation for this year’s seniors,” Hart said. “Having basically the second half of the school year taken away without notice or warning has been a disorienting experience for many, so anything we can do as a community to show our love and support for these kids is important.”
At first, Van Doren wasn’t sure if the project would resonate with students, but to his surprise, the time capsule had its first contributions quickly.
“I went over there and I thought, oh my God, there’s going to be nothing in that time capsule,” he said. “But I was wrong. There was stuff in the time capsule. And I didn’t look at what it was, but I thought that was cool.”
Van Doren said while he’s sure many residents would like to contribute to the time capsule, he wanted the project to be exclusive to graduating seniors.
“It’s the class of 2020’s time capsule,” he said. “Who knows what we put in there, but we won’t look, but we’ll slam the top on, we’ll bury it at the fairgrounds and we’ll find out in 2040 what’s going on. And so, it seemed like two things you could participate in without having other people and add something that will be fun in the future to look at.”
The display also serves a dual purpose of having the Rotary’s name in an eye-catching place in the village, hopefully attracting attention to an organization that has struggled since the pandemic hit.
“The Rotary Club got a grant and spent some money to make that an attractive little island in front of Ron Don’s,” said Trumansburg Rotary President Mary Bouchard. “And so, Durand thought that, since we’ve kind of staked our claim to that little piece of property by beautifying it, if we put a little rotary sign on the island, people might associate the island with the Rotary Club.”
And Hart added that it also helps to bring some optimism to all village residents.
“The COVID pandemic turned everyone’s world upside down, in numerous ways, and we’re still working through all of the fallout,” Hart said. “Being able to help lift others up, in whatever way we can, goes a long way in this ongoing process of forging ahead.”
Overall, Van Doren is proud of the display he and Costa created.
“It’s just something to do for the village,” Van Doren said. “I live close by and [was] just trying to make light of a bad situation and give something to the students so that they can look back on the time and see that they weren’t robbed, but people cared about them and wanted to do something for them.”
Class of 2020 grads are invited to bring something to commemorate their high school experience to place in that time capsule, which will be removed from Rotary Island on June 28 and buried on the Trumansburg Fairgrounds on June 29, not to be unearthed until the class’s 20th reunion in 2040.
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