Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reactions and Extreme Opinions about the Fair

I am a newbie to entering things into the fair. This is only my second year of doing so. Considering that, I am willing to concede that I may not be an expert on how things should be done at the fair. If you think I am spouting nonsense in this post (as determined by someone that knows a little more about fair entries), please leave a comment and let me know. (Please stop short of calling me names. A simple correction will suffice.)

Let me also add that I am ignorant of the etiquette that applies to posting pictures from the fair of other people's work. If you see an item of yours that you'd rather I didn't post, let me know. I've removed all names because I didn't get permission to use them, but if you'd like credit for something of yours I'm showing, I'd be glad to add it--just let me know.

First, as I couldn't resist complaining about already in the first post, it drives me crazy that things are not organized by class. I want to see what each thing is up against. A blue ribbon doesn't mean much if there's no competition...and a second place may be wonderful if the blue ribbon item is spectacular.

Now considering that the items have to be arranged in a rather short time with rather limited flexibility of showing space, I can see how it would be difficult to necessarily keep everything together in each little category. I would be almost as happy to see the class identified on the item's tag. Then I could look for the items and at least be sure what class they were in.

Speaking of displays, I think a little more care could have been taken to showcase some of the blue ribbon winners. And this would not take much.

Look at the photographs in the following picture:
Now those fireworks "groupings" are pretty neat to look at. The one on the right has a blue ribbon and the one on the left has a third place ribbon. (I actually think the pictures are better in the third place grouping, but I am willing to let the judges have a different opinion there.) My main point here is that they've put the blue ribbon grouping on the shelf so that a quarter of it is hidden behind the shelf above. All I can say is, "?"

Another case of a "hidden" blue ribbon winner is this jewellery display:
I'm sure that little pot (or whatever it is) is proud of it's red (second place) ribbon, but it's covering half of the blue ribbon winning necklace! What the heck?!

These are little things, but it wouldn't take much time to consider them while laying out all the items. It really wouldn't.

Oh wait, one more example:
Here are a couple items made by my knitting nemesis. (And I mean that in the nicest way.) She won the blue ribbon for adult sweater with this gorgeous grey one and right above it you can see that she took the grand champion ribbon for knitting (big purple rosette).

Now look again at that big ribbon. And look at the item it's on. Can you even tell what it is? I think it's a sweater. Pullover? Cardigan? (It actually can't be a cardigan or coat because I won the blue ribbon in that category. It can't be an adult sweater either because the grey sweater won in that category. What is it?) Don't you think you should really be able to see the Grand Champion Item??? I happen to think you should. (And personally I'd like to be able to see why it beat out some of my items! I have to know what I'm up against for next year, for one thing.)

The quilts, on the other hand, are well displayed from rods hung around the entire room. This year there was less wind which helped. Last year the wind was blowing the quilts into each other so bad that they started to overlap!
This is the Grand Champion quilt. It was very nice and extremely well done, but I would have chosen another. Here's a detail of it:
Being all white, it doesn't have the "punch" of the other but it does have many subtler charms. You have to move in close to appreciate all the candlewicking, embroidery, stitching and lace edging.

And this leads me to my final reaction: the judging. I wish the judges would leave feedback on your item as to why it may or may not have won, how you can improve for next year. A lot of fairs do have their judges make adjudication marks. I've been reading on it; I know.

Of course this is only helpful if the judges make good comments. One woman on Ravelry reported that a judge commented on her photograph of a mountain lake that the picture would have been better if the island was closer to the shore. She's thinking, "Ya sure, I'll get right on that!"

And, of course the biggest problem with judging is that you're never going to agree with them on every decision.

Let's take the jewellery category for this example. Here are some of the entries:
You have my bangle on the top left. You have an exquisitely beaded bracelet in the middle. You have a ribbon with a central bead and a clasp on the right (with the red ribbon) and some strung beads on the lower left (with the white ribbon). Now how do any of those entries beat the beaded bracelet? It was beautiful, stylish, well-made...I don't get it.

So I searched and searched for the blue ribbon (because it wasn't with the rest of the class here) and could only find this:
The pink and green beads with the blue ribbon. Umm...really? a blue ribbon? I apologize if the creator of that necklace is reading this, but it looks like something a six year old would make. (And I do believe all the children's entries were in the next room.) How does that win a blue ribbon over that beaded bracelet?? I can only guess that the red ribbon is hiding the truly spectacular part.

Ok, ok, it's time to quit on that now, before Catty Christina really gets going. It's a small county fair, and it's a lot of fun to enter (really, it is) and it's a lot of fun to see what other people in the area are up to, ribbons or no. And I know it's a lot of work for the volunteers who really did do a great job of it despite all my nit-picking.

And after all this complaining and "helpful" advice, I'm sure you're thinking, "Well, why doesn't she volunteer at the fair, then?" And indeed, I just might. But not next year. Next year I have a family reunion campout to plan and 50th birthday party to throw for the hubby. All within a week of the fair.

Well, maybe I could start slow and just volunteer an afternoon at the quilt raffle table. I don't have to take over the first year...


  1. Okay, wow, from the photos, I agree with you. My only experience entering the fair is as a 4-H kid way back when. Those entries are judged against a standard, not against each other (except when it comes to Best in Show), and the judges DO make notes. It would drive me nuts not to know why the judges voted as they did!

  2. I love your observations. I can tell we think alike because I am the photographer you mention in this post! LOL... I didn't know if anyone even saw that post I made in ravelry.

    At our state fair, I think the photography judges get bent out of shape over the large amount of amateur photographers who enter (like me), so they write ridiculous comments in the hopes of discouraging us from entering the next year. My daughter and I were plotting to intentionally enter really bad photos just so that we could have a laugh over the comments.

    That said, I once again entered photos this year and while I think they are very nice, I am sure that some judge will find a way to try to make me feel bad for even trying to snap a shutter button. Oh well, I take photos for my own enjoyment.

    As to the needle arts, I have found that our judges in all the fabric and fiber arts to be extremely helpful and encouraging even when an item is not as skillfully crafted as others. I think it is always good to find a way to compliment and encourage someone in the crafts and help them to grow in their skills rather than beating them down. From comments I have received in the past I now know that I have to pay much closer attention to how I weave in my ends and believe me, this year I did!

  3. @Speatte: I have since talked to someone whose sister judges photography in a fair. She said it's really hard sometimes b/c they can have a dozen really good pictures, but HAVE to get really picky to pick a winner. (There's only one blue ribbon, after all.) Try to just take what you can from the comments to learn, and let the rest roll off your back.
    Good luck this year with all your entries!

  4. Oh, I agree Troy and Christina. Our fair has a HUGE amount of photos entered. We score on the Danish system, meaning that the entries are judged against a standard, rather than each other directly. So, there are lots that make it into the "blue ribbon" category and the other categories as well. Premiums are only given for Blue and Red (1st and 2nd). Then from all the blues a few are selected as "Sweepstakes" "Champion", etc and those few get a larger cash premium.

    At my level I would honestly be surprised to ever get the Champion. I really am not going for that at all. Those photos are really stunning and I can tell that the photographer put lots of time and talent into composing. Me, I just tend to enter ones that I think look good and that I just go lucky with the composition.

    I have gotten blue a few times in the past, but not recently. Funny thing is that my blue ribbon winners from years past were done with a much less sophisticated camera than I now own. Again, I think I just go lucky.

    This year, all 3 of mine got 2nd place red placings. An improvement over last year. My husband who does way less photography than me, got Blue ribbon on all of his and my DIL also got a Blue.

    I really do appreciate the feedback I get on all the items I put into the fair, but when I get a comment like..."Move the Island closer to the shore...", I have to laugh.

    I enjoy your reading your blog.



Comments are moderated so you will not see yours post right away. Thank you for leaving a comment; I enjoy reading each one!

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...