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Denim to Diamonds

4-H Members from left, Zack Fox, 15; Thomas Mackey, 18; Rusty Gredig, 17; Kyle Johnson, 14; and JD Allmon, 16.
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At last year’s Garfield County State Fair, the choice as to who would go to the Colorado State Fair in leathercraft came down to two brothers, Thomas and Chance Mackey, who both made custom horse saddles.

“It took the gal two hours,” Thomas said of the judge who searched for the slightest flaw on each saddle. “She struggled to distinguish superiority on one over the other.”

Who she chose to go on to the State Fair, where one of them beat competitors in 55 counties, will be a matter of discussion for the two brothers for years to come.



The Mackeys were among the crowd of more than 200 people that gathered for this year’s 4-H fund-raiser called Denim to Diamonds.

Denim to Diamonds is the annual fund-raising event for Garfield County 4-H. The money raised at the event is distributed to members, leaders, and clubs throughout the county, which teach youth and adults to learn, grow and work together as catalysts for positive change in their respective communities.



Caley Gredig, who is an organizational leader in 4-H and has been involved with the club for more than 20 years, said, “No matter what a kid is interested in, 4-H has it.”

When Gredig was in 4-H in 1983, she designed a complete wardrobe, and the plan of action that she used to complete her project is the same that is used today.

The kids have more than 100 projects to choose from that range from animals to computers. After they pick a project, they plan how to attain the goal, explain how they are going to do it and then complete it in time to show it at fair.

Kalli Fox made her eighth-grade banquet dress for her clothing construction project. “I just wanted my dress to be individual,” she said as she showed her formal, full-length black dress.

“4-H teaches hands-on life skills,” said Gredig. And while it widens one’s abilities and builds skills, it is also a social network. “You make friends that will last your entire life,” she said.

Last month 17 people from area clubs attended the Leadership Development Conference in Denver which featured a model United Nations and workshops that showed the lawmaking process that included a discussion of current governmental issues in the Colorado Legislature.

The club also has a new community project called “Generations of Heroes,” in which 4-H members choose someone from the community 65 or older to be the hero of the month.

“We’re taking some of our members that we look up to that are heroes in our eyes,” said Nancy Johnson. This time Kyle Johnson, of the Ridge Runners 4-H Club, nominated Imogene Nichols.

Nichols’ family were ranchers and she was a member of 4-H in Rifle in the 1930s and ’40s.

Her advice to the current 4-H members is, “Do the best you can.”

Which is how Thomas Mackey won first place at the Garfield County Fair and Grand Champion at leathercraft at the State Fair.

“It was a matter of opinion,” he said of the judge’s final decision. But Thomas’ younger brother Chance might have a different view.

While it’s true Thomas labored 450 hours on his custom saddle, there is one other minor detail about the judge at the Garfield County Fair that Chance will never let his big brother forget.

Thomas remembered, cracked a wide-open grin and confessed.

“I danced with the judge’s daughter.”

4-H members, from left, Kalli Fox, 13, and Amber Lyons, 14, both of Silt, are in eighth grade at Riverside Middle School, and Brianne Jones, 14, of Glenwood is homeschooled.


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