July 1, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

A field of art

Call it art in progress.

The fans at St. Joseph-Ogden High School always take note of the painted field, endzones, midfield and yard markers.

While the work of painting the field is rewarding—it is still a complex operation.

A group of men that have sons on the varsity team work tirelessly before each home game to ensure that the field looks good for the Spartans to play each Friday night.

Darrell Dable has been painting the field during both of his boys’ high school careers.

Brandon, now 20, and Blake, who is a senior, have spent a lot of time on the field, and Dable has been there through it all making sure that the playing surface is adequately painted to make the Friday night atmosphere even more special.

“I started doing this (painting fields) back when my boys were in the youth program, and we would paint the field out at the community park, and when they aged out of the youth league, I started doing it on the high school field as well,” Dable said.

Alongside Dable, there are many other dads that have been integral in helping get the job done, because according to Dable, “the more we have help out each week, the quicker we can get done and return home to our families.”

Jeff Primmer, Jim Sullivan, Doug Albrecht, Blake Weaver and Mike Brazelton, among others, are regulars the week of a home game, and the routine each week is determined by what is going on with that particular game.

For instance, special designs may be done for homecoming week, as well as senior night, which will be this Friday night. Playoffs are another special design, and if the Spartans qualify for the playoffs this season, a design will be on the field should they host in the first round.

There are tarps that have cutouts in them, so when unfolded, will trace the outline of either the Spartan head in the center of the field, or the ‘SJO’ or ‘Spartans” in either endzone. Sometimes, to save time, Dable will come out early to the field to set the templates so that when the rest of the painters arrive, they can get right to work.

“Setting the tarps that form the designs is one of the more tedious processes of the whole job, and if we can get that done early, then the less time it will take to do everything else,” he said.

After the designs have been traced, painting machines are used with wands to outline the design, then after that is done, a separate machine comes in to fill in the outline.

Thus far this season, the Columbia Blue has been used for the endzones and the middle of the field, as well as outlining the yard markers and the hash marks on the field.

At the beginning of the season, the Spartan heads in the parking lot are re-done in maroon, blue and white.

Those heads lead from the locker room to the field itself, providing the players a pathway to get onto the field before firing up the crowd as they run onto the field.

Sometimes weather can cause a delay in painting the field—as happened when the team played Chillicothe Illinois Valley Center. The men waited until after the bad weather had passed to paint the field in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Dable said he is looking for someone to take over the operation.

“I’ve been doing this for many years and it may be time for someone else to take over once Blake graduates,” he said.

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