By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
ERA— Era High School junior Shane Kirts has spent the last four months working hard on his big blue 1958 Fordson tractor and his determination has been rewarded as he has been chosen as a national finalist in the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition to be held at the national FFA convention in Louisville, Ky. beginning Oct. 30. Of the hundreds of entries, only Kirts and 11 other finalists are in the running for the $10,000 cash prize.
The Grand Champion will take home $10,000, the Reserve Champion will get $5,000 and the Bronze Champion will pocket $3,000 for their efforts.
According to the Delo Tractor Restoration event website, the competition was established in 1995 to recognize and reward the creativity, technical aptitude and business knowledge of high school-aged students from around the country. Participants develop teamwork, project management, budget management, planning and marketing skills. All of these new skills will enable them to become future leaders in the agriculture community.
During the restoration, some of Kirts’ work included overhauling the engine, transmission, PTO, and hydraulics. In old tractors, some of the parts are obsolete and even have to be hand crafted to replace broken or ill-fitted parts.
Kirts credits his father, Jim Kirts, for what he has learned about tractor restoration and for his recent success.
“Everything I know about tractor restoration I learned from my Dad,” Kirts said. “I think I must have inherited some of his skills as I am pretty good about figuring things out. I don’t want to sound as if I’m bragging but I seem to have special aptitudes for welding, mechanics and electronics.”
“I also wanted to thank my sponsor, Mr. Blake Fortenberry, who supplied the tractor for me,” Kirts continued.
Kirts has a quiet confidence about him and is looking forward to the competition despite a few butterflies regarding the three minute video presentation he will record documenting his restoration project. Each finalist video will be made public so friends and family can watch and vote for the best video in the month leading up to the contest finals. The winner or winning team will receive an IPod for their efforts.
New to the 2013 competition is a photo contest. Participants can submit up to five beauty shots of their restored tractor to win a $100 gift card as well as a framed copy of their winning art
“I am sure my knees will be knocking when I get to the convention and face the judges,” Kirts said.”
Era Ag and Science teacher, John Dunlap, will accompany Kirts and a few other FFA members to the Kentucky venue.
“Thanks to Shane, we are able to attend and bring some of the other kids along for the experience,” Dunlap said.
“As the new Ag and Science teacher at Era, I can in no way take any credit on Shane’s accomplishments,” Dunlap said. “Most of the work he did was before I arrived on the scene. He and his father worked hard to make this happen.”
Dunlap continued, “What I hope to contribute is the experience I have since I have been to this competition. I hope to be able to help Shane with his presentation and just give him as much support as I can.”
With eight out of the 12 finalists from Texas, Kirts feels like he has already faced considerably tough competition.
“Texas always has a lot of great tractors and has always been well represented. I feel fortunate to be among the other Texas schools this year,” Kirts said.
Other finalists include: Cotton Center FFA from Cotton Center, Cuero FFA from Cuero, Dubiski Career High School FFA from Grand Prairie, Eufaula FFA from Eufaula, Ala., Iowa Park High School from Iowa Park, Melrose-Mindoro FFA from Melrose, Wis., Newton High School FFA from Newton, Kan., Rogers FFA from Rogers, Southmont FFA from Crawfordsville, Ind., Southwest FFA from San Antonio and Wise County 4H from Rhome.
Prior to the convention, Kirts will be taking the tractor on short excursions to the Peterbuilt factory in Denton for a presentation and to the State Fair of Texas.
As a sideline and in addition to the hard work Kirts put in on the big blue tractor, he also built a folk art figure made out of used tractor parts that he calls Scrappy.
It is still up in the air whether or not Scrappy will be making the journey to Louisville but if he does, he will of course champion his creator Kirts and the entire Era FFA.