Top honors in the woodworking competition at the Harvey County Fair are staying all in the family for the second year in a row, as cousins Noah Becker and Abby Banta of Sedgwick took grand champion and reserve grand champion, respectively, in 2017.
Last year, it was Becker and his older brother, Nathaniel, sweeping the top two spots in the category. With Banta keeping the streak going, it appears the success may be genetic. At the least, there is a very personal connection that has driven the interest in woodworking for both.
"I just enjoy doing it with my dad and my uncle," Becker said. "I've been doing it for a while."
"I like doing it because my dad is a woodworker and I like doing it with him because he helps me know what to do and learn how to do it," Banta said.
Claiming grand champion honors feels pretty good, Becker admitted, and seeing another family member excel is the cherry on top. Both put in a lot of hard work on their projects, with Becker working at school daily (about an hour) starting after Christmas break and continuing through the second semester, while Banta's timeline was a little more condensed — starting about five weeks prior to the fair.
Both Becker and Banta submitted benches in this year's fair, focusing on several key details while preparing their projects for entry.
"Sanding it was important and putting the right stain on it; an outside stain so it doesn't rot out," Becker said.
As a member of the Sedgwick Sunflowers 4-H group, Becker has been competing in woodworking for eight years now, submitting projects like a custom planter and shadowbox previously. While he specializes in woodworking, Banta has branched out in her four years in 4-H (though she has been competing in woodworking for five years, completing projects from birdhouses to side tables).
On top of woodworking, Banta also entered submissions this year in the categories of gardening, reading, clothing buymanship and more, taking grand champion honors in gardening and clothing buymanship and reserve champion in reading.
For the pair of cousins, woodworking remains a favorite, though, as it offers opportunities to work with new tools, have fun and strengthen some familial bonds. Already, though their projects may not be set, they are aiming to keep the top woodworking prizes in the family for a third year in a row in 2018.
Even as ambitious as they are, Becker and Banta can have fun doing what they love. Getting recognized for their craftsmanship is a nice accomplishment, but that doesn't mean they'll be resting on their laurels as they continue to fine tune their work — with the proper amount of time.
"I pretty much enjoy everything except being in a hurry," Banta said. "We're gonna start earlier next year."