Thursday, July 21, 2016

One Person's Opinion On One Day

Grand Champion, Stafford County Fair 2016 open class
"It's just one person's opinion on one day."

It's a phrase my parents often repeated. They said it at music festivals while I anxiously waited for the rating on my vocal solo to be posted. They repeated it during the county fair. With a stomach turning somersaults and my fingers anxiously tapping a nervous rhythm, I probably inwardly rolled my eyes. (I didn't outwardly do it: I would have gotten in trouble.)

But you know what? It's true. Judging is one person's opinion on one day.

So if people at the Stafford County Fair looked at the Grand Champion ribbon taped to my photo last week and thought, "I wonder why they picked that one?" That's why: It was one person's opinion on one day.

Of all the photos I entered, I wouldn't have chosen that one as my favorite either. It was probably among my most unusual though, and sometimes uniqueness counts.

I took the photo last March at Pratt Livestock when we sold feeder calves. We had been at the sale barn all day long. But when we stepped outside into the darkness, I noticed the country version of a traffic jam. Randy wasn't surprised when I delayed our departure a little longer to get a few shots of the cattle trucks lined up around the perimeter of the sale barn parking lot.

I entered a bunch of photos in the open class division of the county fair last week.  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.

In open class at the Stafford County Fair, not every photo gets a ribbon. I had several blues, along with some reds and whites. And I had some that didn't place at all.
Blue ribbon in "People" category
My premium money didn't begin to cover the cost of enlarging photos, buying mat board and special plastic bags, but I felt pretty good about having more than half of my photos "in the money," so to speak.
Blue ribbon in "Animal" category
However, 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.
Blue ribbon in the "Landscape/Scenic" category
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.
Blue ribbon, "Human Interest" category, Black and White
But photography seems to be alive and well. There were lots of entries in both the 4-H and open class divisions.
Blue ribbon, B/W, "Action" category
Because of blogging, I seem to grab the camera more often. So I have a lot of photos to choose from.

Blue ribbon, "Humor" category
For the record, one of my favorite photos, a sunrise over a wheat field, got a red ribbon. That particular photo had gotten more than 500 "likes" on Snapshot Kansas' Facebook page. So you just can't outguess a judge: "It's one person's opinion on one day." 

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.

And speaking of purple ribbons, I also got a pretty lavender Reserve Grand Champion ribbon in the arts and crafts division with my children's book, Count on It! Adventures from a Kansas Farm. 
I used my photography and created rhyming verses for the numbers 1 to 20 and self-published it on Heritage Makers. I dedicated the book to our granddaughters, Kinley and Brooke, and to "other children in an effort to keep our rural heritage strong."
I'd like to pursue getting it published by an actual publisher, so I could sell them at a lower price, but that's easier said than done. Still, it's nice to have someone say, "Job well done!" Even if it's only one person's opinion on one day.


  1. No 1 - I have to say just how much I love your header photo.
    No 2 - I can imagine why you got Grand champion. The composition and lighting is quite stunning.
    No 3 - Congrats for all the ribbons.
    No 4 - I'm blown away that you have written your 'Count on it". Job incredibly well done!

    1. Thank you, Helen. I took the header photo last July. The book combines two things I love - writing and photos!

  2. What a great post, Kim.
    I think that 'being part of a community' says it best.
    I love going to Fair. Bob and I enter photos and last year we entered Garlic and will again this year. Maybe I'll enter some flowers. Probably not. Got no 4-Hers any more so no animal exhibits from us.
    I love the way you tell a story.

    1. Thanks, MaryBeth. Our final year with a resident 4-Her was 2006 - 10 years ago! In many ways, it doesn't seem that long. We definitely aren't as involved as we were back in those days, but we are such advocates of the 4-H program that we still want to contribute in smaller ways.

  3. Congratulations!! A very awesome photo and deserving winner I think. And I am super excited about your book winning Reserve Grand Champion! You published a book and it is an award winning book! Your grandchildren are super lucky.

    By the way I really love your header and we are enjoying seeing it each day on our calendar. Reminds us that our hay season is only just around the corner.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. I would like to pursue publishing it "for real," though I know that's not an easy road.

      The header photo is one of my all-time favorite alfalfa photos. I took it in July of last year. (It actually got reserve grand champion at the Stafford County Fair last year.) And speaking of calendars, maybe your frost-covered photo hanging in the kitchen has helped cool off these 100-degree days. I wish!