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Art contest shows local talent; some advance to Houston

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 12, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 12, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.

Susan Vanderford takes a photograph of her daughter, Megan Vanderford, 9, while she shows off her artwork during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo  art contest at Victoria Community Center.

Onward to Houston

Victoria entries moving on to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo include:

High School

Best of Show

• "Fresh Alfalfa" by Benjamin Fogal, 16, 10th-grader, Victoria West High School

Gold medal

• "Reach For the Sky" by Taylor Hughes, 17, 12th-grader, Victoria East High School

Gold medal

• "Striving for Perfection" by Jordan Benavides, 15, ninth-grader, Victoria East High School

Special merit

• "Cowgirl Kisses" by Shelby Rice, 16, 10th-grader, Victoria East High School

Junior High

Best of Show

• "The Wild is Calling" by Donivan Vecera, 12, sixth-grader, Howell Middle School

Gold medal

• "Bested" by Drew Garcia, 13, eighth-grader, Howell Middle School

Elementary

Best of show

• "Ready to Ride" by Piper Kallman, 11, fifth-grader, Vickers Elementary School

Gold medal

• "Bob the Bull" by Gabrielle Salinas, 11, fifth-grader, Torres Elementary School

Jordan Benavides might not have seen her name in lights Saturday, but the Velcro plaque she did see was the next best thing.

A sign inside the Victoria Fine Arts Center told her she'd won a gold medal for "Striving for Perfection," her colored pencil drawing of a boy roping a calf.

"I had a feeling I'd do well because I worked really hard," the redhead said, explaining the final product was about three months in the making. "I'm happy."

Judging was Saturday for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo art contest, and Benavides was among the eight Victoria students whose work advanced to the Houston show.

Judy Waligura, a district chairwoman with the livestock show's school committee, busied herself Saturday morning sorting through winning entries and packaging up those headed for Houston before moving on to do the same in Cuero.

She described the contest as an amazing opportunity, noting the grand champion at the Houston show receives $30,000, while the reserve grand champion gets $15,000 and class champions receive $2,500.

Last year's grand champion piece sold for $206,000, she said.

Waligura admitted plenty of time and effort went into organizing the events - the volunteers began their work in Victoria about 8:30 a.m. - but said it was worth it.

"The payoff is the kids," she said.

Judging ended about noon Saturday, and doors opened shortly after, allowing the public a first-hand glimpse at the artwork submitted.

Cam'ron McNary was among the first inside as he searched for his entry, a colored pencil drawing of a man on a horse, his rifle aimed at a bear crouched over a calf.

The soft-spoken 12-year-old, a seventh-grader at Patti Welder Middle School, said he based his artwork off a drawing by his father but changed the details to make the picture his own.

While Cam'ron said he was proud to see his work on display, he wasn't the only one. His mother, Tiffany Strother, stood beaming alongside him.

"He's always asking me, 'Can I have a piece of paper?'" she said, grinning. "Even in church, he has to be drawing. He loves it."

Strother wasn't the only proud parent present.

Jeanie Alcantar works at Hobby Lobby in Victoria and adjusted her work schedule so she could make the exhibit. She was there to support two budding artists, daughters Lisa and Chloe Alcantar.

"Both my babies made it, so I had to be here," she said, giving 7-year-old Chloe a playful squeeze on the shoulders.

As for Jordan, the Benavides family hopes the third time's the charm at the Houston show.

Her artwork advanced her sixth- and eighth-grade years, her father, Vincent Benavides, said, but this year offers something special. As her first time entering in the high school division, this time she's eligible to make it to auction.

"If she makes it, that money goes toward a college education," he said, smiling over at his daughter. "She has an amazing talent. I'm a proud daddy right now."

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