Morgan Weaver and Cole Upton shared an unlikely achievement.
The Chapin Elementary School classmates both had winning essays in this year's Grandparents of the Year competition sponsored by the State Fair. Not once in the event's 23-year history had two winners been chosen from the same school, much less the same class.
But on Sunday afternoon, their grandparents, Elizabeth Weaver of Chapin and Sid Upton of Batesburg-Leesville, were announced as the state's top grandparents in the contestants' 7- to 10-year-old division. The two were among six grandparents selected statewide in three age divisions from more than 18,000 essays submitted this year.
"Me and Morgan went all out for it," Cole explained after he and the other winners read their essays to nearly 2,000 visitors in the Grandstand on Sunday. Both had been encouraged to enter the competition by their English language arts teacher, Darlene Sparrow.
Cole, who shares his grandfather's birthday, wrote of the bond he shares with the elder Upton.
"We love to spend time together," he said in his essay. "I know that whatever I go through in life, he will be there for me."
Morgan spoke of her grandmother's example of service. The elder Weaver helped organize the GoodWorks store in Chapin, and the two often volunteer there together.
"By involving me, she has helped me learn the importance of helping other people," she read. "For that, she is my greatest hero."
In the 11- to 13-year-old division, Peggy Furr of Lancaster (nominated by Mary Mac Adamson) and Ben Johnson of Kingstree (nominated by Lyrentha Johnson) were named Grandparents of the Year.
In the 14- to 18-year-old division, Joyce Carolyn Davis of Marion (nominated by Dayshon Shomari Abram) and Hubert Shieder of St. George (nominated by Joey Shieder) were named winners.
All six grandparents receive a 19-inch color television and plaque. But most agreed their biggest prize was not in a box.
"It's just very humbling, and I'm very honored," Elizabeth Weaver said as she clung to her granddaughter. "I feel blessed to be a part of her life."
Upton has a copy of his grandson's essay on his refrigerator and plans to have it framed.
"That's a pretty good secret to keep," he said, offering an appreciative glance in Cole's direction.
Both the Weavers and the Uptons brought about a dozen families members with them to the fair Sunday. State Fair assistant manager Nancy Smith said that is evidence of the strong relationships many children share with their grandparents across the state.
"It's a special bond between the children and their grandparents, and you can just see that in the reactions when they walk up on the stage," she said.
Sunday's crowd for the awards presentation was one of the biggest in recent years.
"That just goes to show how much this event means to people," Smith said.