- Author: Alison Collin
We have all grown something, whether a flower, fruit or vegetable, that looked so good we wished we could share the pleasure with others. Well, why not do just that by entering the Tri-County Fair, August 28-31 this year?
I always look forward to this fair with some nostalgia since much of my childhood in the UK was spent attending horticultural shows. There, even the smallest village supports an annual show where residents vie with each other in friendly competition to win the trophy for the largest onion, and where there is quiet jubilation all round if Mrs. Blogs finally wins the Rose Bowl, having been runner-up to the local squire for the past ten years.
What exactly is involved? The first step is to get the schedule from the show committee (also may be available for download from the Tri-County Fair website) and to study it carefully to ascertain which of the dozens of classes one might enter. Read the rules carefully. You may feel that you have nothing worthy but it is surprising what you can find if you look around – perhaps you have a spider plant that has done well, or you have some particularly good roses, tomatoes, melons, or some nicely grown sprigs of rosemary or sage. Root crops pose more of a problem since it is impossible to see what they are like and one does not want to pull up an entire row of carrots in order to find three matched specimens!
The entries are usually due a couple of weeks before the show, which gives one a chance to assess what will peak at the right time. Make sure that you get your entries in before the deadline. There is a nominal fee for entering.
What will the judges look for? They will expect well-grown, clean, unblemished, mature, fruits or vegetables. Consistency is also important, so exhibits should be matched for size, shape and color and they should also be typical of the variety they represent. This is more important than mere size unless the class is specifically for the largest specimen. There should be no evidence of insect or mechanical damage.
The schedule calendar gives times of when to take your items. Produce and flowers are taken either the night before, or early on the morning of the judging. Harvest your items carefully, clean and trim them and devise some method of avoiding bruising during transport. Take a few extras in case of mishaps. Quilt batting makes a soft bed for items such as peaches. (I still cringe at the memories of unwrapping my mother's peaches from yards and yards of toilet paper when she exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society show in London).
Many shows prepare some guidelines as to exactly how to prepare your produce for judging, e.g. should tomatoes have the stem attached or removed? Do you remove carrot tops, should they be washed, how much of a rhubarb stem is exhibited, how long should zucchini be etc.? In the absence of these guidelines locally, I have found a couple of websites of other county fairs, and since they seem to offer consistent guidelines, I have followed those. Links to them are at the bottom of this article.
When you arrive, you give your name to a volunteer at the entrance to the hall, and they will explain how to stage your exhibit. Vases are provided for flowers, and baskets for fruit and vegetables. Make sure that you put the required number in the container – if it says 3 stems then don't use 5. If it says 6 tomatoes, then don't put 10 because you cannot decide which ones to discard! Make them look as attractive as possible. I have found the volunteers at the Tri-County fair to be very helpful and friendly, so the process is not at all intimidating.
All that you have to do then is wait until the Fair opens and see if you have won an award! However, fairs represent so much more than a chance to win a ribbon. Without exhibitors there would be nothing for the public to see. It is educational and often inspiring to see what other people have successfully grown in our area. Many volunteers devote hours to bringing the Tri-County Fair to our community. As gardeners, we can do our part by entering a few things. You never know – you might just win a blue ribbon and if you don't, better luck next year!
http://www.tricountyfair.com/fair. Details of entry deadlines etc. will be posted here around the middle of June.