Grand dedications

Freemasons gather in Yampa and Oak Creek to honor tradition

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— Schoolchildren in Yampa and Oak Creek witnessed a centuries-old tradition Friday morning.

Freemasons throughout the state participated in the dedication of two new school facilities in South Routt.

The ceremony they performed for students, teachers and residents of the area dates back to 13th century Scotland.

The tradition of laying cornerstones in public buildings runs deep in American history.

The Freemasons placed cornerstones in such important structures as the White House and the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

The Grand Lodge of Colorado officiates cornerstone ceremonies throughout the state.

The Masonic Lodge in Yampa, Egeria Lodge #167, contacted the Grand Lodge last fall to ask that it perform cornerstone ceremonies for the new classroom wing of South Routt Elementary School and Soroco High School's new gymnasium.

Members of local Masonic lodges appreciated the willingness of state Masonic representatives to bestow such an honor on the two South Routt communities.

Grand Master Joseph E. Hadad, the presiding officer of the Grand Lodge of Colorado, was one of many state officers who drove a great distance to preside over the ceremony.

Hadad, who's from Trinidad, said he doesn't mind the traveling.

He has logged more than 70,000 miles on his vehicle in two years because of similar engagements around the state.

A majority of public buildings dedicated by the Freemasons are educational facilities, Hadad said.

The Freemasons enjoy coming to schools because they get an opportunity to incorporate children into the traditional ceremony, said Grand Secretary Gerald Ford of Denver.

Adults sometimes approach the officers after ceremonies to share childhood remembrances of the Freemasons coming to their school and performing a dedication ceremony.

The inclusion of a time capsule is an important part of the cornerstone ceremony.

Elementary students included a yearbook and a list of school board members in their time capsule.

The new classroom wing did not get a cornerstone because the location of the stone would not have been visible to the public.

Instead, the time capsule will be placed within a hallowed-out section of a large boulder, sealed and topped with a plaque commemorating the dedication.

High school principal Rich Coleman asked the student council to decide what items would be placed in the high school's time capsule.

The Freemasons laid an actual cornerstone for the high school gym Friday.

A professional will return to take the stone out and lay it again to ensure its longevity.

"We'll get the other kind of mason to do the job," Ford said.

Hadad and Ford said they remember some interesting items placed in the time capsules.

Items such as comic books, class pictures and newspapers usually fill the container, they said.

One capsule weighed so much a crane was needed to place it.

Local lodges, which number 141 in the state of Colorado, furnish plaques for public buildings.

One of the larger ceremonies officiated by the Grand Lodge occurred after the construction of Denver International Airport.

Cornerstone ceremonies give the public an idea of the role Freemasons play in the community, said David Moran, an honorary member of Egeria Lodge #167.

The opportunity to dedicate a school reinforces the Freemasons' commitment to public education, he said.

Chuck Sweetland has been a member of a Masonic lodge for 48 years.

He remembers previous cornerstone ceremonies in Hayden and Meeker, and the last ceremony in Steamboat Springs when the building at the corner of Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue was dedicated with a plaque.

Cornerstone ceremonies hold so much importance because they are so infrequent, he said.

"It's just a great honor," Sweetland said.

Teachers at South Routt Elementary received information to share with their students about the ceremony's significance before Friday.

Fifth-grade teacher Barb Poulin said her students were more inquisitive about the dedication after they watched Grand Lodge officers perform the tradition.

"They had more questions to clarify it," she said.

Fifth-grader Jephery Donaldson, like many of his classmates, noticed the symbolism of items used in the ceremony.

"There were a lot of cool things," he said.

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