First Lady unveils new Golden Horseshoe Knighting Bench designs

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – During a Wednesday-ceremony at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston, First Lady Cathy Justice announced the winners of the 2023 Student Artist Series Golden Horseshoe Knighting Bench design contest. Also on-hand for the announcement was West Virginia’s Curator for the Department of Arts, Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith, and Joey Wiseman, director of Student Enrichment Programs for the W.Va. Department of Education. 

W.Va. First Lady Cathy Justice, alongside Curator Randall Reid-Smith, addresses the audience at the Culture Center in Charleston on May 17. Photo by Matthew Young.

Justice began by thanking all those who participated in the design contest, saying, “It’s a real time-consuming effort. I know your hearts have to be in it because you all do such wonderful work.”

“You wouldn’t believe the future that every one of these participants will have to do whatever they want to do – the work is just tremendous,” Justice added. “This series (First Lady Student Artist Series) started a long time ago with a Mother’s Day paragraph. We got such wonderful essays on that, so we’ve gone on from year to year doing something.”

Justice explained how in 2022, Reid-Smith suggested that students submit designs for the creation of a new Golden Horseshoe Knighting Sword. The finished version of the Knighting Sword’s new design is now on display at the Culture Center, and will be used to “knight” 2023 Golden Horseshoe recipients on June 13. 

“The skill and craftsmanship of these projects is just unreal,” Justice said. “These (new benches) will be used for years to come. When you’re knighted in eighth grade, these are what you’ll kneel on.”

The Knighting Bench design entries were submitted by students at four of the state’s Career and Technical Education Centers, including Roane-Jackson Career and Technical Center, Braxton County High School, Cabell County Career Technology Center, and United Technical Center.

The winning design was submitted by Austin Morrison and Marin Wickline, from Cabell County Career Technology Center. Morrison and Wickline were awarded $300 for their first-place entry, and their school will receive $2,600 in grants to support the Career Center program. 

“Runner up, and if for some reason Miss America cannot fulfill her duties – oh wait, that’s the wrong contest,” Reid-Smith said with a laugh. 

For their second-place submission, United Technical Center’s Audrey Jackson and Chaela Harrison received $200. United Technical Center serves students in Doddridge, Harrison, and Taylor counties. 

In third-place was Ava Bratton of Roane County HighSchool/Roane-Jackson Career and Technical Center. Bratton’s efforts earned her $100. Honorable mention and $75 went to Emily Garrett of Braxton County High School. 

The W.Va. Department of Education provided funding in the form of grants to each participating Career and Technical Center to cover the costs of designing and building contest entries. Judges for the 2023 Knighting Bench design contest included Justice, Reid-Smith, and Casi Pourfarhadi. A custom woodworker,  Pourfarhadi is the co-owner and operator of Black Locust Woodshop in downtown Charleston. 

After the winners had been announced, Director Wiseman closed the ceremony.

“I appreciate all the designs, our tech centers, all the work, our teachers, our administrators, the students – this has been an amazing adventure as we’ve been going through it,” Wiseman said. “We’ve seen some spectacular work.”


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