The butterflies and hummingbirds are telling me fall is near. The hummingbirds are stacking up around the feeders like planes around Atlanta. As soon as one lifts off, another takes its place with two more waiting their turn. The cloudless Sulphur butterflies daintily float by on their way south for the winter, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs. You may not notice them unless you have some open space and a favorite old chair to sit in. There are other ways to tell fall is nearing. Cotton bolls are opening, soybeans are dropping their leaves, combines are cranking up in the fields, and the county fair is in town!
I have been associated with the Blount County Fair for a number of years. I have also judged county fairs in DeKalb and Cullman counties, so I have some idea about what it takes to win a ribbon at a county fair.
Although the deadlines have passed for entries this year, here are some things to remember for next year.
Rule number one: follow directions. When you pick up one of the fair guides and decide to place an individual exhibit, make sure you know what the rules are. For instance, if the entry calls for three large tomatoes, don’t bring two. If an art exhibit calls for a 5-x-7 frame, don’t enter an 8-x-10. That is simple enough, but some get disqualified every year for not following the guidelines listed in the brochure. Judges usually have a copy of the rules close by.
Rule number two: if multiple units are in the same exhibit, do your best to make the items uniform in size and color. For example, if you are entering three apples, they should all be the same size and color. However, if you intentionally put a bright red apple, a bright green apple and a maybe an apple with a blush of red and green, so that the judge recognizes that you are intentionally placing three apples that complement each other, then your chances of winning are better.
Rule number three: if you purchase something from the local grocery store to enter in the county fair, please make sure you take the stickers off the item before you put them in the fair. I wouldn’t be mentioning this if someone hadn’t tried it. That is sure enough an automatic disqualification. I hate to see “Grown in California” stickers on local produce. I want everyone to enter something in the fair because it makes for a better fair when the community is involved, but let’s keep it local to the greatest extent possible.
Remember, there are adult and junior categories for individual exhibits, so let’s get the young folks involved as well.
When it comes to judging booths, one must remember that there are several different types of booth entries. Commercial booths will be judged differently from non-profit booths and youth themed booths. About the only advice I have for booths is make it eye-catching, but not crowded. Make sure your theme is clear and represented by the items within the booth.
If a judge has several exhibits that are all equally great, then it becomes a judgement call on the judges’ part. Booths are usually judged by a panel of three or more, as are most other exhibits, so it’s not just one person’s opinion, but rather a panel of judges.
Just when you think you have figured out how to win a ribbon, the judges change. What worked last year might not work so well this year. New judges see things differently. County fairs are a lot of fun and even more so when you get involved, either with an exhibit or as a volunteer.
As you visit the fair this week, look around at all the yellow shirts inside the exhibit area. All of these folks are volunteers working to make the county fair a great experience for you and your family. If you think you would like to volunteer at the fair next year, contact the Blount County – Oneonta Agri-Business Center. We need folks like you to step up and help out. You will be trained prior to working, so don’t let that keep you from helping out with one of Blount County’s fun activities. Volunteers are also needed to serve on the Blount County Fair Committee. All it takes is some of your time and a commitment to making the fair a positive experience for everyone. See you at the county fair!
Dan Porch is County Extension Coordinator with the Blount County Extension Office. Dan lives in and loves Blount County and is available to answer your questions about conservation, agriculture, natural resources, and gardening. He can be reached at (205) 274-2129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.