The county’s rich local history was explored through the eyes of young historians Saturday as the annual Harrison County History Fair kicked off at the former Marshall Visual Arts Center.
The annual history fair, presented by the Harrison County Historical Commission, has become a highly anticipated event, following its revival five years ago after a nearly two-decade hiatus.
This year’s theme was “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences”. Students were instructed to choose a topic of local historical interest to study and present in an organized format.
“We were impressed with the quality of the projects. We always are,” said Barbara Cox, education committee chair for the HCHC. “These kids really, really come out for this.”
Reading the names of the winners, Cox told the crowd how amazed the judges were.
“We have enjoyed reading every one of these projects,” she said.
Categories included individual exhibit, group exhibit, individual performance, group performance, individual documentary or group documentary. All projects required an annotated bibliography and a process paper, detailing the steps in researching and creating the project.
Winning first place for individual exhibit was Silma Lemus for her project titled “Passing of the Bill of Rights.” Winning second place for individual exhibit was Emily Villela for her project titled “The Mexican-American War.”
Winning first place for group exhibits were Maggie Pringle and Julian Shaw for their project titled “Education Long Ago through the Eyes of Beatrice Loyd.” Winning second place for group exhibits were Adeline Love and Carolann Love for their project titled “Lady Bird Johnson: Environmental Diplomat.”
“This year we had 17 students and 13 projects,” Cox noted.
Participation was open to all students in grades sixth through 12th in Harrison County, including home school, private school and at-large students.
Participation was lower this year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers hope the event continues to grow next year.
“We’re impressed with the quality of the projects,” said Sharon Dews, who is with HCHC and Marshall ISD.
“Once again we didn’t have the participation that we usually have because of COVID. It’s really been a struggle for the teachers this year, but I would love to see this event grow,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for students.”
According to the guidelines, students who advance from the local one-day competition are eligible to compete in the national History Day Regional Competition.
“We’re just kind of giving them another look before they move on to regionals,” said Dews. “Those students will have the opportunity to advance.”
One thing she loves about history fair, she shared, is the fact that students can completely redo or make enhancements to their project, as long as they maintain their original topic.
“As long as they basically stay with their original topic, the things on the board, their process paper, everything can change,” said Dews. “It can improve.”
She’s excited about the opportunity for high school student volunteers to mentor the young historians on their projects.
“We’re actually looking at a couple of our high school students who have competed in the past, acting as coaches this year,” said Dews.
Ninth grader Cameron Archield enjoyed assisting as a judge this year.
“It was fantastic,” Archield said of the opportunity to view the projects.
“I learned some information today that I didn’t know about,” he said, noting he was intrigued with projects on Wiley College and Marshall native and civil rights leader, James Farmer. “I learned some information and got to see people that I had never met before and had fun.”
Other projects included the history of the historic Ginocchio Hotel, Cesar Chavez, The Great Debaters, Longhorn Ammunition Plant and The Cuban Missile Crisis and its Consequences Throughout History — to name a few.
All projects for the local contest must be original and have been researched and developed during the current contest year, the guidelines state. Students are responsible for the research, design and creation of the entry.