The Nueces County Junior Livestock show has been a Coastal Bend tradition for 78 years, and it's most recent addition, the welding competition, took on a special meaning this year.
One of the event's founders, Mike Mylnar, passed away nine days ago, and on Friday, his students and fellow organizers remembered his guidance and leadership.
"He had kid magic. He, you know, when somebody wouldn't understand, he'd help. He'd take time, he had patience," said Mavrick Quintana, one of Mylnar's welding students at A.C. Jones High School in Beeville. "He'd break it down."
Mylnar's students are all still mourning his untimely passing, but their enthusiasm thrives.
"You know, we just want to really do well for him, because he always encouraged us so much and always wanted us to do well," student Eric Deanert said. "And it just kind of gives us that incentive to, you know, just honor him, because he deserves it. Because he was such a great teacher and great mentor."
"This is my first competition ever, and I really wanted him to be here for it," student Victoria Elizalde said. "But I know he's watching down, looking down on us."
Mylnar was instrumental in launching the welding contest at the Junior Livestock Show, so on Friday, organizers paid tribute.
"And this is now the memorial, Mike Mylnar Memorial," Event Director Ellery Francisco said. "Long title, but very well deserved. Very much so."
The A.C. Jones team was among more than a dozen high schools represented at Friday's welding competition. Mylnar's wife said the event was part of his dream.
"Mike's dream for students was that every student had the opportunity to learn a trade that they could always fall back on to feed their family," his wife said.
Mylnar's students say he was more than just a teacher.
"He wanted us to succeed as individuals on a daily basis," student Bryan Webb said. "He lived that life so that we can see how to live our own lives, and say, 'Hey, I want to be like that when I grow older.'"
The students from A.C. Jones High School placed first in pipe welding, and third in plate welding.