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Picture Or Filth? Ryan Walters Had The Local Reputation As King Of Clean - Until He Became A Finalist In The ‘Dirtiest Kin In America’ Contest

Sat., June 8, 1996, midnight

Dirty dozen? Big deal.

One Newman Lake boy is one of the ten dirtiest young hombres in the country. In August, he could be named the crown prince of grime.

Ryan Walters, 11, is a finalist in the “Dirtiest Kid in America” contest sponsored by detergent company Tide. Now he’s a star. His picture is in the June 10 issue of People magazine, and he’s flying to New York later to compete in a stain-a-thon obstacle course.

But who knew? Everyone thought the East Farms Elementary student was the king of clean. That’s how the whole thing actually started.

Ryan’s mom, Joni Walters, is a teacher at East Farms. One day, Ryan’s teacher, Rill Valitchka-Moore, praised Walters about her spotless kid.

“Look at him,” she told Ryan’s mom. “No matter how how many times he goes outside, he’s nice and neat. And he even smells good.”

Ryan, neatly-combed brown hair, freckles and polite manners, doesn’t come off as an aficionado of filth.

But Walters schooled her co-worker. Not long after, she brought a picture of Ryan completely covered in muck. It stuck in Valitchka-Moore’s head. When she saw an entry form for the contest amidst some coupons, she gave Walters a holler.

Walters hung onto the entry form, but didn’t send it in for a while. “You don’t win things, y’know?”

Finally, on the day before the deadline, she sent it in.

That was in late winter sometime. About a month ago, Walters received a Fed-Ex package. It said Ryan was a runner-up in the contest.

Walters put off calling back for about a week. She didn’t realize her son was invited to New York City.

When she did call about the letter, she discovered otherwise. “They said ‘No, honey, he is a finalist,” Walters remembered. “I was in shock,” she said.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” Ryan said.

The festival of filth that led to the photo happened in August. Ryan and his little brother Ben, 8, were playing in the back yard of the Walters’ Newman Lake home. The family had recently removed a tree from the yard, leaving a big dirt pit in its place. The boys grabbed a hose and filled it deep. It was mud-bath time.

“I heard them yelling,” Walters remembers. “I go outside and they’re standing on the deck doing muscle poses. They had taken mud and had totally covered their bodies and were laughing. What could I do?”

She went inside and got a camera. Ben hid behind a telephone pole, but Ryan started hamming it up.

Now that the picture has made his brother a schoolyard celebrity, is Ben jealous? After all, if he hadn’t hid behind that pole, he could have made the messiness A-list himself.

“I was happy for him,” Ben said. “But I was happier when I heard that I got to go.”

In New York’s Central Park, Ryan will climb a mountain covered with chocolate syrup. He’ll slide down a peanut butter and jelly slide and carry as many teacups filled with Hawaiian Punch as he can hold.

He’ll dive into gelatin, too; that’s his new favorite sport. When Ryan first heard about it, his brows shot up, his eyes went wide and he got a dreamy, far-off look on his face. “Cool…” he said.

A few of the kids at school are a little jealous, classmates Coby Lassey and Jordan Rippee said. Some teased Ryan by asking for his autograph. He’s now earned the moniker Mud Boy. But even his pals say Ryan really isn’t a mess most of the time. Jordan didn’t even recognize Ryan in the picture.

But the East Farms kids came through in the end. The dirtiest kid in America will be crowned in New York, but the winner won’t be picked based on performance in the contest. Call-in votes determine the true mud master. In the issue of People that hit newsstands June 3, pictures of the 10 messiest kids were displayed with a 1-800 number for readers to use to register their vote.

Ryan’s class rallied. Everyone called and voted for him. His buddy Coby, whose family has two phone lines at home, called twice.

If Ryan wins in New York, it’s off to Disney World. “It’s all free,” Ryan said. What a deal. Walters and husband Greg get to go, too.

“I have to say I’m very proud,” said the Mud Boy’s beaming mom.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos


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