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McParland 4th grader tops in county with tote bag design
McParland School fourth grader Katelin Bean shows off the her winning tote bag. - photo by Photo Contributed

Katelin Bean can never say she does not win anything.

Not after what happened recently at the Robert Cabral Agricultural Center in Stockton. The 9-year-old McParland School fourth grader aced the 4-H Tote Bag Challenge by winning the top honor for the San Joaquin County level of the competition. After this, her next stop is the state competition to be held on May 26 at the University of California at Davis.

Not bad for someone who is just in her first year as a full-fledged Calla 4-H member.  That does mean though that she is a greenhorn as far as club involvement goes. Even before she was age-qualified to join the group as an officially qualified member, she had already taken part in the last three annual 4-H Fashion Revue as a Clover.

Clovers, explained the McParland student’s mother, Kristy, are for 4-H members who are between the ages of 5 to 8 years old. They become full-fledged at age 9.

“In 4-H, you can enter the Fashion Revue as a Clover,” said Kristy Bean, who added that the Tote Challenge was just one of several aspects of the overall Fashion Revue competition.

“This is the first time she has won anything” at this event, she said of her daughter’s winning performance.

Other Calla 4-H members placed in the Tote Bag Challenge as well. Julia Griffin was picked as the first alternate county winner. Earning blue ribbons were Jessica Wylie, Alanna Kolkmann, Elicia Fisher, and Emily Cunial.

The students’ handmade tote bags were judged on a number of factors. During the judging, “you have to go in front of the panel of judges” who then ask the students a number of questions about their creations such as how one has to launder the totes. They also look at the stitching, the fabrics’ colors, the bag’s eye appeal, how neat is the bag, and how well it is presented.

The students also have to do all the work involved in their project, including using a sewing machine. Each of the 4-H members in the Tote Challenge has a sewing machine at their disposal at the county 4-H office located at the Cabral Ag Center off Arch Road near the Stockton Metro-Airport on North Airport Way.

To get their project done, the students met their project leader Carianne Kolkman who gave them suggestions as to what is the best fabric to use for the outside of the tote bag and for the lining inside.

The young Tote Bag makers also had to make the decision as to what fabrics would work best for the project they have in mind. For this part of the bag-making process, the club members met with Kolkman at JoAnn’s Fabrics in the Stadium Retail Center by the Big League Dreams Sports Center in Manteca.

“They had to design the bags in a way that would be original,” Kristy Bean said.

Based on the official rules of the competition, however, the 4-H contestants had to use a Simplicity pattern provided by the state 4-H office which they would then decorate and accessorize with such things as pockets and decorative ribbons.

The purpose of the Tote Bag project is to teach the students about clothing and textile, and choosing the outfit to go with the bag. Along the way, the students learn how to sew.

Taking part in the annual Fashion Revue held on April 21 at the Robert Cabral Agricultural Center were 4-H groups from Stockton, Lodi, Manteca, and Ripon.