Walter Nichols of Winfield was named the 2021 Open Class Exhibitor of the Year at the Cowley County Fair. The award is given in memory of long-time fair board member and grass and grain superintendent Larry G. Hittle who passed away in August 2018.
Nichols said he was shocked to win this honor from the Cowley County Fair but very grateful.
He received a special plaque and a check for $25.
The award is based on overall participation in the open class departments of the fair including the number of departments entered, number of entries and placings received. Nichols entered 33 exhibits in the antiques, art, and floral areas. He received a total of 207 points, including sweepstakes winners, blue and red ribbons, and the annual Vada Lady Home Department award.
Walt was born in Rock in 1940. In 1946 the Nichols family purchased a farm north of Winfield where they lived and farmed until retirement. As a country kid growing up, Walt enjoyed creating items from almost nothing to artistic pieces. When around 10, Walt made a complete farm from cardboard materials his aunt bought from the Kroger grocery store. The project, still in perfect condition, can be viewed at the Cowley County Historical Museum in Winfield.
Nichols studied art under Winfield High School art teacher Mary Jo Williams and later under Sue Jean Covacavich. He has kept up his love of art through many mediums including oil and acrylic, clay, linear prints, woodcarving, mosaic and barn quilts. He also likes to build and refinish furniture.
Collections of Native American items, bison and vintage toys, some from his childhood, are also included in his favorite interests when he’s not doing yard work.
In 1952, Walt entered his first painting in the art department at the fair, a pair of red cardinals. It still hangs in the Nichols home. He credits the late Edith Hittle for his involvement in the fair. Her continued encouragement led to a lifetime of supporting the county fair.
Walt and his wife Cheri have enjoyed antiques, collectibles and art all their 60 years together. They have been Cowley County Fair supporters, exhibitors, judges and assistant superintendents for various home departments, and they belong to the Cowley County Fair Auxiliary.