I often wondered how some 4-H projects that had earned County Champion awards could be kept viable for exhibition at the Indiana State Fair. It was fairly easy for my three winners—the Bug Box, a bulletin board, and a jar of cherry jelly—since none of those things was perishable and could be dusted off and have new labels attached. Even clothing projects could be washed and pressed to look as good as new, and livestock just needed a good bath and brushing. But the baked goods and the gardening entries…. There’s nothing worse than stale chocolate chip cookies and hard dinner rolls. Ripe peaches and tomatoes tend to draw gnats after a while, and cut gladiolas fall apart after standing in water-filled coke bottles for several days. So those exhibits piqued my logical mind. I decided that the playing field was pretty level after all. By the mere fact of time, State Fair entries in those categories had to be replicas—maybe better, maybe not—of the ones that had actually won a Champion ribbon at the County Fair.
I also wondered about State Fair judging. It might sound like sour grapes, but the comments left by the judges on my entries seemed questionable to me. I wondered what the County judges saw in my exhibits that the State judges did not…. especially in 1968 when I took two different projects to the Indiana State Fair —a bulletin board for Home Furnishings and cherry jelly for Food Preservation III.
The bulletin board was made from an old framed mirror I found in my grandpa’s attic. Dad and I removed the badly damaged glass, Mom and I cut a piece of burlap fabric that matched the curtains in my room and stapled it around a piece of fiberboard, and we refinished the wood frame. It was beautiful and functional. I finally had a place to display all of the heart-throb, celebrity photos that I’d cut from teen magazines—you know, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, David Selby of Dark Shadows, Michael Cole of Mod Squad, David Cassidy of the Partridge Family, and Donny Osmond—but that’s another story. Anyway, after my entry was awarded the Champion ribbon at the Hendricks County Fair, the State Fair judge commented that “Only wire is acceptable as a hanger and the corners are not fastened properly.” They granted me a Red ribbon—eh, not too bad.
The jar of cherry jelly was a completely different story. It essentially wasn’t even considered for judging because, “Entries for Food Pres. III should be frozen rather than cooked jelly.” How was it possible that cooked jelly be accepted in Hendricks County but not even eligible at the State level? My entry was given the dreaded, Participation—“Whatever that is, it’s not good enough.”/Green ribbon. To say the least, I was disappointed, but the jelly was delicious on toast when I brought it home.
I loved being a Crafty Clover. 4-H taught me so many of the skills I’ve relied on over the years. Even the embarrassments and disappointments taught me valuable lessons. Mo Sews Memories came about as a direct result of those skills and… well, I’m still working on the lessons. 🙂
It’s been nice chatting with you all. I look forward to hearing from you soon—Over the Back Fence. Tell me your ideas about turning your memories into keepsakes. I’d love to help!