Old habits die hard.
I've been exhibiting things at county fairs since I was 10 years old. I was a fourth grader and a member of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club.
My only project my first year was "Snacks and Little Lunches," a foods and nutrition project. According to my meticulous record book, my first fair netted a blue ribbon on cookies and red ribbons on both my cupcakes and brownies.
If my 4-H story is to be believed, I had a "lot of fun." In fact, several times, I had "a lot of fun." Perhaps my descriptive writing had not yet been developed.
But, at any rate, I evidently did have "a lot of fun." Here we are ... um ... several years later, and I'm still entering exhibits in county fairs.
I told you last week about my adventures with the Hudson Cream Flour Bakefest. At the Stafford County Fair, I also entered photography and a family book I made for my folks commemorating our family's designation as K-State's Family of the Year in 2009.
Last year, we were in the midst of wedding preparations, and I didn't enter anything. I guess I was making up for lost time this year. I enlarged and matted 18 8- by 10-inch photos and then two 4- by 6-inch photos for a separate calendar contest at the Stafford fair. In open class there, only the top three photos in each class are awarded a ribbon and the accompanying premium money.
I ended up with two firsts, six seconds and three thirds. My premium money didn't begin to cover the cost of enlarging photos, buying matboard and special plastic bags, but I felt pretty good about having more than half "in the money," so to speak.
It's not about the money. It's about being part of something bigger. If people don't enter, there's nothing to look at during the fair. And if there's nothing to look at, nobody is going to come. And if no one comes, fairs are going to die.
Because of a decreasing population base, there are already fewer exhibits than there were back when I was a kid. Or maybe it's just a shift in the kind of 4-H projects kids take today. Back in my day, there were lots of little girls in clothing construction. Today, very few 4-Hers construct their own clothing or other items. There are no longer racks of home-sewn clothing hanging at county fairgrounds.
But photography seems to be alive and well. There were lots of entries in both the 4-H and open class divisions.
Because of blogging, I seem to grab the camera more often. So I had a lot of photos to choose from this year.
Since I already had the time, effort and money invested in the enlargements, I also entered photos last week in the Pratt County Fair, my hometown fair. Actually my parents entered them for me. We were out of town, and I guess you are never too old for your parents to help you out. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
The judging is a little different for open class at the Pratt County Fair. The judge awards ribbons to all the entries. I was limited to 10 entries there, and I got 8 blues and 2 reds. Of my 8 blues, three were awarded Top Blue in their class. And one was chosen as a Champion (the one at the top of the post, which, by the way, had gotten 2nd in its class at the Stafford Fair.)
The frog was Top Blue in the Animals and Pets division in open class at Pratt and got a blue at Stafford.
I think that's interesting. Judging is one person's opinion on one day. If I judged the same contest, I might choose something else entirely. If you lined 10 people up and had them judge the contest, there might be 10 different winners. So it was interesting to have the consistency on these two photos despite different judges.
My K-State Family of the Year book got blue ribbons at both Stafford and Pratt County Fairs.
So here we are, back to the question at hand: Why exhibit at the county fair?
People have been experiencing fairs since the days of the Roman empire (At least that's what Wikipedia - the authority of all things - told me). I suppose there's a little rush to being chosen "best" at something, satisfying that little kernel of competitiveness in the human spirit.
But I truly think it's about helping to make sure fairs last another 2,000 years. (Maybe women in Jerusalem met in the city square while gathering water and decided who had the best flat bread. Yes, I know I have a vivid imagination.)
Fairs give people an excuse to come together, to visit with people they don't see everyday.
It gives guys an opportunity to eat food their wives won't fix them at home everyday (Yes, I think Randy had pie every day he was there.)
It brings volunteers together to work on something that's bigger than what any one person could accomplish on their own.
It's about being part of a community. I'll give that a purple ribbon any day.