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Quilters, blacksmiths keep crafts alive at festival

WALTERS  Bubbles whirled in the wind at the intersection of Colorado Avenue and Broadway Street where quilters, blacksmiths and crocheters set up booths for the first Cotton County Heritage Festival in downtown Walters on Saturday. 

The festival, hosted by the Walters Chamber of Commerce and local volunteers, welcomed people not only from Cotton County but also from Stephens, Comanche and other counties to celebrate the culture of Southwest Oklahoma and to enjoy summertime activities. 

Friendly competition between Walters resident Stephen Ford and his daughter, 11-year-old Scotlyn Ford, took place during a match of jousting on an inflatable mat. A moment of truth came when Scotlyn admitted that her dad won the match. 

"I started cheating," she said, grinning ear to ear. "I started jumping on his legs and pushing him away."

"At least she's honest," Stephen said, laughing. 

Stephen, a member of the Walters Chamber of Commerce, served as the main coordinator of the fest. He said it's important for the community to come together to see "what the town used to be and what it can be in the future."

Stephen took photos as Tim Poteete, from the Museum of the Great Plains, showed Scotlyn how to start a fire  without a match or lighter. After he lit a small patch of grass, Poteete used his hat to fan the small flame as Scotlyn watched in amazement. 

Across the street from Poteete was a Party Productions bounce house, along with a Walters Fire Department dunk tank, where 9-year-old Kole Shipley threw a ball to hit the target that sent his sister, 13-year-old Vivian Shipley, into a tank of water.

"It feels good because it's hot out here," Vivian said. "It's refreshing."

The Shipley siblings attend Central Public Schools in Marlow, and they went to the festival with their grandmother, Jo Ann Shipley, who works for Lawton-based Party Productions. 

Shipley, who lives near Pumpkin Center, said children in small towns and country areas do not have easy access to inflatable activities  and that's why she decided to drive out to Walters.

"Anything you can do to help these kids is good," she said.

Down the street from the inflables were food trucks, including CNJ's Ice Cream, I Heart Snowballs and The Trough, offering ribbon fries, fried Oreos and other fair food. The "Bible Baptist Booth" gave away free water to festival-goers en route to the different craft booths. 

Ashley Ford, Stephen Ford's wife, set up a table that showcased her homemade soaps and crochet creations. The other two Ford daughters, Harper, 6, and Kalina, 4, joined their mom under the tent.

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