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I love New York: a Frontier Middle School “people picture”

I Want To Wake Up In That City That Doesn’t Sleep Frontier Middle School students, staff members and volunteers gathered to create several “people pictures” that will be given to the Western New York Va Hospital and the Bob Winter Foundation. As “New York, New York” played in the background, the 1,300 participants, led by Patty Watson, arranged themselves into the various patriotic shapes outside the local school on Sept. 25. Photo submitted by Watson.
HAMBURG — Frank Sinatra crooned the words of “New York, New York,” as 1,300 students, staff members and volunteers gathered together outside Frontier Middle School in red, white and blue shirts, to create a human-form shaped New York state on Sept. 25. These photographs, taken from above, are known as “people pictures.”

Patty Watson began the project, after she said she was inspired by the terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11. She said she wanted the students to think about America, patriotism and supporting the troops.

“It’s bringing awareness to children,” she said. Although not always patriotic themed, she said that each “people picture” she organizes somehow gives back to the community.

EMPIRE STATE OF MIND — Students were organized by class, per section of the shape. Photo by Alicia Greco

Watson organized the logo for the Stand Up to Cancer charity, which is now recognized as a nationally known program.

Other people pictures Watson has created included a hand’s making a peace sign, an eagle and a giant red hand to promote bullying prevention. For the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, she took a picture of the word “America,” comprised of 2,780 people, representing how many individuals died on Sept. 11.

EXCELSIOR: EVER UPWARD — Frontier Middle School students, teachers and volunteers gathered to create a “people picture.”

She organized the charging buffalo of the Buffalo Bills logo for a contest called NFL Rush, which taught and promoted exercise awareness and healthy living. Her group did not win the contest, but she said that the photo is hanging in the National Football League headquarters, which are located in New York City.

Frontier’s people pictures have been organized for 10 years.

Dave Sion, the photographer for the event, yelled from the fire truck lift provided by Woodlawn Fire Company, which frequently volunteers for the event. From the lift, Dr. Mike Watson, Patty Watson’s husband, found errors and spaces to fill within the mass, maneuvering the students to put their toes on the lines to perfectly form the various shapes.

After the photo was taken, Principal Barbara Shea thanked everyone who attended and educated the crowd with NYS “fun facts,” such as the state song (“I Love New York”), the mammal (beaver) and fruit (apple), to name a few. “The very best part of New York state is what you represent in this photo,” Shea said. “Her people!”

Shea also introduced guests who were in attendance, including Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters (who was in his third year attending the event) and Legislator Lynne Dixon. There were also U.S. veteran attendees.

Theresa McClusky, Kim Finley and Mike Suffoletto were on Watson’s volunteer design team.

Watson said that organizing these photos take approximately 80 hours of work, which is why she said it is important that they are for good causes. “Unless my heart is in it ... it really has to make a difference in the community,” she said.

The photo will be given to the Western New York Va Hospital and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. In the past, photos have been given to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve, to send to troops stationed overseas.

To view Watson’s portfolio, visit


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