Community

How Spudders Got Its Name: Children’s Book Honors Ridgefield School District

Written November 10, 2020 by LSW Admin

The backstory to ‘Homegrown Heroes: How We Became the Ridgefield Spudders,’ is one that follows a trail as far back as the farming origins of Ridgefield and stops at the feet of an unlikely figure: Spudders, the school district’s mascot.

Part rallying cry, part allegory, the story weaves together the origin story of Spudders with pieces of Ridgefield history, folklore, and hearsay. The end result is a lighthearted interpretation of how Spudders got its name, taking readers back to a time when the town was mostly open land and rolling hills, flanked by fields of plumbs and potatoes.

The forming of a school district became a town-wide effort that brought people together. From humble beginnings, the Ridgefield kids work together and lift each other up, ultimately helping solidify the school district’s positive identity.

Written and illustrated by Kristina Walsh-Daarud and Chad Daarud, the husband/wife duo were originally part of the team responsible for designing Union Ridge and South Ridge Elementary, two of three schools that were included in a 2012 bond. Like every school project, the work starts by understanding the community, the students, and the school itself.

“Ridgefield is a unique community. They want their design to reflect what makes this a special place to live,” Kristina explained. “When designing the elementary school, we came up with an idea to tell stories of Ridgefield through the building, rooted in local history. Alexandra Bradford (Editor at the Section Magazine) did a lot of research to inform the design, interviewing local figures about the first schools, town history, local agriculture, and more.”

The design for these rooms intended to capture the spirit and heart of the school, but the research yielded a lot of really interesting information. “One of the stories that we kept coming back to was how the mascot became the Ridgefield Spudders. There was a lot of hearsay and a few versions.” This intriguing loose end proved to be a creative seed - one that grew into the basis for this book.

"We are grateful for the ongoing support of LSW Architects who continues to be a great partner. Special thanks to Chad and Kristina who captured the wonderful spirit of Ridgefield." Dr. Nathan McCann, Superintendent, Ridgefield School District

There is a world of joy and personality in the illustrations of Spudders. This is the result of Chad’s own enthusiasm and some previously unknown practice, which he brought to the artwork. “I’ve actually been drawing the Ridgefield school logos and the iconic Spudder for my girls ever since they started going to school in Ridgefield.” While Kristina worked on the first draft of the story, Chad drew the first Spudders illustrations using an archive of old Spudders memorabilia as a reference. At the end of the day, this was a fun side project that emerged from a very personal one for the couple.

Public schools are sacred. They’re the backdrop for countless childhood memories, connected to things that stay with us long after we graduate: The teachers that help shape our understanding of history and science, the first friendships we make, the activities that capture our hearts and turn into lifelong pastimes. That is why, at LSW, teams value and rely on the working relationships we share with local school districts, which are critical to delivering a space that offers more than a place to sit through class.

“This is a fictional account of what happened,” Kristina says, in closing. “It’s meant to be a light take, weaved together from the different versions we’d heard. It’s all about building a community, being kind, and lifting one another up. Themes that don't change over time.”

You can purchase a copy of “Homegrown Heroes" here, where all of the proceeds go to the Ridgefield Public Schools District Foundation.