Fit for a queen or king, this large handmade quilt with the signature Wyoming Steamboat fabric is being raffled to help support University of Wyoming 4-H and collegiate wool judging programs.
The quilt will travel on display around the state. Its first stop is Converse County Bank in Douglas. The date is to be determined. Individuals can purchase raffle tickets at their local county extension offices, from a UW wool judging team member or wool judging 4-H member. Tickets are $20 each or seven for $100. The winning ticket will be drawn in September at the state ram sale in Douglas.
“We realize it’s not the most convenient way to purchase tickets with the pandemic, but we really hope we can sell these tickets and keep the programs going for a long time,” said Whit Stewart, UW Extension sheep specialist.
Through conversations with some long-time friends and colleagues, Stewart shared with Russell and Kathy Bell of Campbell County about cuts made to his program.
“Next thing I know we have a beautiful quilt on our hands that’s going to raise money for collegiate and 4-H wool judging programs,” said Stewart. “It sounds cheesy, but I love how that embodies the type of people we get to work with. They identify a challenge, they are partners with us and they make it happen.”
Kathy put off the idea of making the quilt when Russell first proposed the idea because she knew it would take some time, and fall was the busy season on their ranch.
The idea soon resurfaced and Kathy decided to visit some quilt shops around the state and found some fabric and a pattern.
“I just put it together and did it in about three weeks,” said Kathy.
She knew most people had either a queen- or king-size bed, so she made it big enough to fit a king.
“It is a bucking horse fabric with gold bucking horses on brown or brown bucking horses on gold,” said Kathy. “It’s a fabric that is all hand-dyed.”
The Bells have been long-time 4-H supporters in Campbell County, said Johnathan Despain, UW Extension state 4-H program coordinator.
Stewart credits the Bell family for helping him get his start in wool judging when he first met them at the beginning of his career in Campbell County .
“They are the reason I became involved in wool judging,” said Stewart. “It was that experience that allowed me, as part of my Ph.D. funding, to coach a wool judging team in New Mexico and its since blossomed. We have expanded the numbers in the state, and there are more colleges competing in collegiate wool judging than there ever was.”
Kathy, originally from Oklahoma, moved to Wyoming in 1980 and married Russell, who was born and raised in Wyoming. They raised five daughters on a sheep and cattle ranch outside of Wright and were always active in 4-H. Russell has been a volunteer wool judging coach in Campbell County for many years, shared Kathy.
“Russell will probably do it until the day he dies,” said Kathy. “He just absolutely loves it. He loves helping people out and when he found out Whit’s budget got cut, he said let’s find out how to make it easier for Whit.”
The money will be used to help obtain practice wool for counties throughout the state.
“This will put a boost into making practice wool available to train and to have access to them so they are not all located in Laramie,” said Despain. “Our extension offices and 4-H volunteers will have access to the practice wool in places around the state to learn, to put workshops on, to teach, to train and compete.”
Long-term, Stewart hopes the money will help organize more clinics so more people can get involved, possibly win prizes and maybe even generate some scholarships to help support student coaches.
“I am excited about the fact that there could be some more resources put in a program that serves a smaller segment of population but important to Wyoming,” said Despain.
Despain and Stewart are excited and thankful to work with individuals who would be willing to step up and donate what they can to help the programs.
“Russell and I enjoy the wool program, judging and 4-H,” said Kathy. “We just like to do what we can to help out.”