Stuff I Wish I Someone Had Told Me About Entering the County Fair

I am posting a lot about fairs lately because in late-July or early-August my sewing is taken up with the fair. Every year around this time I poke around my house looking for possible entries.  

2010 Hamilton County Fair, Ohio: Sewing Entries

I can be so focused on producing garments that I don’t always stop for appreciation. Competition adds some randomness and novelty to my sewing.  It is kind of an addictive process. 

Here is a photo of the sewing entries this year at The Hamilton County Fair in Ohio.  If you don’t want to go state, I urge you to start with your local county fair.  I enjoy competing at the fair.  But when I started I was confused by a lot of things and wish someone could have given me a heads up. 

What I Wish I Had Known My First Year Entering Competition My Local Fair


The premium guide.  Most fairs no longer print paper copies as the cost is becoming prohibitive, but you must have one to designate your entries into the correct category.  Go online.  Printing on your own dime is a bummer, but it does allow you to get the guide at a much earlier date than if you had to wait for a paper copy.

Drop-off day and pick-up day.  Fairs run on too tight a schedule for them to give on this. No entry will be accepted after drop-off day and none will be returned after pick-up day. Mark your calendar.  Competing in the fair will mean clearing your schedule for a few hours on these two days, along with your normal fair visits.

Take some small return address labels with you when you go to enter your items.  There is a tag attached to each entry.  You have to fill out each tag with category,department, etc.  Then there is a place at the bottom of the tag for your name.   You can’t imagine how many times I have been at the entry table and heard folks complain of having to write out their full address countless times in such a tiny space.   Then some old lady walks up, whips out a stack of old-fashioned stick-on address labels she bought from Current twenty-five years ago, and lickety-stick, she is back in her air-conditioned car driving away to enjoy her Sunday afternoon.   

Don’t worry that the competition is full of superhuman sewing.  This is a contest for non-professionals.  If you are proudly wearing it, then it is probably good enough for fair competition.   You never know, you could win a ribbon!

Some folks worry that their items may be stolen.  The photo below shows the fencing used in the arts and crafts building to protect the work.  My fair has an attendant in every building and the buildings are also locked during non-fair hours.   

2010 Hamilton County Ohio Fair Sewing Competition Entries. You can see the serious fencing to protect from theft.

Some fairs offer a critique sheet when you pick up your items or when they mail out prize money. Some don’t.  Mine doesn’t and I wish it did because knowing the judges’ comments would make me a better sewer. When I asked the attendant for one she looked at me like I had three heads. Don’t assume that you will receive judges feedback even if you have won a ribbon.

Yes, quite often, there is prize money.  You will not get rich on sewing for the fair but it is fun to receive your check in the mail.   Not enough funding for the vacation of a lifetime but I did use last year’s winnings to impulse buy a pair of jeans off the Target clearance rack.   No matter how small, a little splurge from one’s own winnings will be fondly remembered.

Two More General Things About the Fair Experience

The Heat. It sounds like a no-brainer, but in January when you are planning your projects, you may forget how terrible the heat can be to contend with.  Fairs are high summer events, and as my husband’s late Uncle Ep would say, the weather will be “hotter than a two-p*ckered billy goat.”  (Chock full of colorful prognostications concerning climatic conditions, this illustrious uncle missed his calling as a weatherman.  If only the censors could have withstood the abuse he would have given them, I’m sure he would have garnered quite a following as he inserted such descriptive delights into the drone about storm fronts and barometric pressures.)

Volunteers.  Most of the folks you interact with at the fair are just helping out, giving their time for no pay. It is hard to work outside in terrible heat and most fairs rely heavily on volunteers, many of whom are teens participating in Junior Fair, a program that offers leadership opportunities to young people.   Young adults cannot possibly have years of experience under their belt and they are sometimes unsure and need to check in with a fair employee before giving you an answer to your question.  All of us have been young, green and working a new job.  Be nice.

And have tons of fun. 

We always do.

Next Post: Tuesday, August 17, 2010: I’ve Been Invited to One of Those “Modest is Hottest” Events!


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