Purple ribbon sends coat of armor to state fair
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Nate Walters had won several championship ribbons at the Ellis County Fair, most recently Thursday at the 2014 county fashion revue.
But the large purple ribbon awarded to him Tuesday for his 4-H arts and crafts project was special.
Walters, a member of the Buckeye Jr. Farmers 4-H Club, believed he really earned this one.
His project was one of just five that was selected by the judges to represent Ellis County at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson in September.
Walters, a junior-to-be at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School this fall, smiled when judge Marcie Diaz told him he had earned a purple ribbon during his presentation Tuesday afternoon. But he had to wait until later that night to learn his suit of armor would be going to the state fair.
Even after hearing he had been judged grand champion of the senior division for 4-H'ers 14 years and older, Walters still wasn't positive it was a state fair selection.
Most 4-H projects at the county level that earn purple ribbons automatically signify a state fair qualification.
But because there are so many arts and crafts entries, county fairs are limited to the number they can have on display in Hutchinson.
"There are so many (projects) and such a variety of things, you never know what will be chosen," said Susan Schlichting, 4-H and youth development Extension agent for Ellis County. "They range from paintings and drawings to sculptures and tin men made out of tin cans and jewelry.
"It's difficult to choose just five," Schlichting said, adding some years there are as many as "a couple of hundred entries" at the Ellis County Fair alone.
Walters' entry got plenty of attention as he waited in line to be judged.
Anita Walters -- Nate's mom and an adult club leader for Buckeye Jr. Farmers -- described the project as life-sized origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into a design.
And while the suit of armor was made of card stock, it sure didn't look like paper.
After folding his project into the shapes he wanted, Walters used fiberglass resin, epoxy putty and auto body filler to form and harden the armor.
He said he ran across the Pepakura designer computer program on the Internet in November and showed his mom.
"I thought he would lose interest, because it looked pretty tedious," Anita Walters said. "But he ended up working on it all winter, and it started to take shape."
More than 100 pieces of card stock and 80 hours of work later, Nate Walters had a real-life looking coat of armor that included details right down to designs on the coat and steel toes on the boots. He also sewed a tunic out of faux leather to go under the armor.
"It sounds like you learned a ton of things from this project," Diaz told Walters when she was finished judging his project. "Most of the time when you do something of this magnitude, you get discouraged. But you knocked this one out of the ballpark"
"I let it be for a while over the winter months," Walters said. "But when I got back into it, it was fun. It's all just a process."