The guns have fired, the flags are waving, it’s time for the county fair! Did you know that most of our nation’s county fairs date back to pre-Civil War? What a special tradition to be a part of. Every year, my family and I look forward to our own piece of history – The Sandusky County Fair in Northwest Ohio. Today, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I’m going to show you how simple and fun it is to participate in your county fair – as an adult! …and no, there are no animals involved 🙂
Most county fairs offer lots of great departments to get involved in: baking, vegetables, art, flowers, photography, hobbies/crafts, needlework, etc. Find something that you are good at and there is probably a department. Our fair even has a department for antiques where you can bring in collected items for judging. What I enjoy most about entering as an adult is that you can meet all kinds of other adults who share similar interests and passions. Tell me who wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with some of the best pie makers in the county?! I have also made some great friends this way.
In 2012, a rhubarb cobbler was my first adult entry. The process was very simple. I stopped at my county fair office (open daily) about 1 month before the fair and picked up a Fair Book. I browsed through it to see the different departments that are offered. Within each book is an entry form that you can tear out and fill out. Going by the book, I filled in my department (baked goods), class (cobblers) and lot (rhubarb). At the end of the form, I had to purchase 1 weekly pass for $22. Whether you enter 1 item or 20 items (our county has no limit!), buying a pass is the only requirement. A weekly pass will get you parking and entrance into the gate every day of the fair. If you do well with your entries, you can actually earn enough money to get that $22 back! Yet another reason to enter – free fair!
The Fair Book will tell you when to have your entry form and weekly pass money turned in. For our county, it’s about 2 weeks before the fair. Mark your calendar so you don’t forget! After that, take note of the dates and times that you need to have your entries delivered to the fairgrounds. For the rhubarb cobbler, I baked it in the morning on the first day of the fair before dropping it off for judging at 11:00am.
As you can see from the picture, I was awarded 1st place! It doesn’t matter that I competed with only one other rhubarb cobbler 🙂 I still won a blue ribbon, $2.50 for first place and was automatically placed into the bake sale auction later that evening…
Here is some pictures of my eldest girl helping me work the auction crowd as they bid up my cobbler. It sold for $15.00. Half of the winnings went to me and the other half back to the fair board. So, in total, I made $10 for just one entry. That paid for almost half of my weekly pass AND I had a great time!
The next year, I decided to enter into a popular category: Banana Bread. This time, I baked my bread the day before and brought it to the fairgrounds just like last year.
I was tickled pick to learn that I won first place again!! There were 18 other entries and so winning first place this time was a little sweeter. I also entered some homemade candy that didn’t place. That’s ok! Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. With food items, the number of entries, presentation and the preferred tastes of your judge will all affect the end result. Other departments have their own factors to consider.
Again, I was put into the auction for my bread and it sold for $7. I wasn’t able to make it to the auction to work the crowd, but I also learned that at our fair, quick breads don’t sell as well as pies and cakes. Sometimes a winning cake will go for $200!
This year, I was feeling really ambitious and I decided to enter three baked items : molasses cookies, zucchini bread and cherry cobbler. I baked up the cookies first. The recipe I use is actually vegan and they come out slightly crunchy with a soft middle and very rich in spices. I turned them in on Monday morning and later that day, I began working on my zucchini bread.
By Tuesday morning, opening day, I had my zucchini bread, cherry cobbler, packed lunches, two dressed kids and my pass in hand. As you can see in the pictures, each entry has to have an attached tag with your name/dept/class/lot information. You receive these tags upon turning in your entry form. Keep them in a safe place and on delivery day, you simply attach them to your entry.
Here is a shot of the baked goods rolling in. You could just feel the excitement in the air! While the judging was going on, we trolled around and enjoyed the day.
Neither my zucchini bread nor molasses cookies placed, but I won first prize for cherry cobbler! Perhaps I’ll try the bread and cookies again next year and vary the recipes – Use eggs in the cookies? Leave the dates out of the zucchini bread? It really is a learning experience to see what is accepted as both delicious and beautiful and you can always ask the judges to see what they did or didn’t like. Of course, my family doesn’t mind if I don’t win because then I get to take home the goodies!
Since my cherry cobbler won, my eldest daughter (now 3) and I hammed it up at the auction again this year and wouldn’t you know – I seem to be wearing the exact same outfit as I was two years ago – HA! The auctioneer sold our cobbler for $30. Not bad! My friend’s cornbread sold for $120!
Just to show you that ANYONE can enter into the fair, let me tell you what my husband did. For the first time ever, he entered three photos that he took this past year. Keep in mind; he never even went to the fair as a kid.
The photo he took of our daughter received second place and another of my grandmother received honorable mention! He got ribbons for both and some money for the second place. More than anything, he really enjoyed the experience. In fact, he’s already starting to think about next year. Me too! Perhaps I’ll go for a pie? Maybe a quilt and flower arrangement as well…
Entering into the fair as an adult is a fun and simple way to hone up your skills, make new friends and be a part of something with great tradition! In America, it doesn’t get much better than that 🙂
Meredith is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom living in NW Ohio. She loves to adapt recipes to her family’s eclectic tastes and is learning to provide nourishment for any bellies who walk through the door at a moment’s notice. If not in the kitchen, you’ll find Meredith in front of her sewing machine or spending quality time with her home and church families. Life goes by so fast!