Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meet Me at the Fair

Blue ribbon peach pie,
just out of the oven
I have a former co-worker, from 18 years ago (you know who you are - Kim Forster!), to thank (or blame!) for my odd obsession with county fairs. At the time, I had two very young children at home, but had gotten into cake decorating as a hobby so I could make the girls custom birthday cakes each year. Kim told me about the Durham Fair, which was the largest agricultural fair in the state of Connecticut, where we were living at the time. She was entering some items and thought I should enter into the cake decorating division.

With a three year-old and a four month-old at home, I'm not sure what possessed me to give it a whirl, but I did. I entered one single item - a "flower basket" decorated cake, loaded to overflowing with many varieties of frosting flowers and a handful of butterflies. Boy, was I pleasantly shocked when we returned once the fair had opened to find that my cake had won first place, a lovely blue ribbon and a ceramic pitcher commemorating the fair's 75th year! The feeling of validation and pride was overwhelming and from that day on, I've been hooked.

Once we moved to Colorado, it didn't take me long to scope out the fair in my home county and before I knew it, I was entering my home preserved items, baked goods and sewn treasures. At first, just one or two items, but over the years, my number of entered items has grown. Fifteen years later, I look forward with great anticipation to the opening of the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo here in Castle Rock. I'm now on a first-name basis with the lovely volunteers who check everything in and we take that opportunity to catch up on each other's lives and discuss the new recipes that we've tried out since the year before.

This year's "haul" of ribbons
from the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo
There's such a sense of community at the fairgrounds. Young and old, farmers, ranchers and local business professionals, all gather here to admire each other's entries and appreciate the time and effort that goes into making something beautiful, baking from scratch, raising a prize-winning animal or taking a bushel of fresh fruit and turning it into jars of jam that won't taste like anything you've ever bought in a store.

If you're making wonderful things at home, I urge every one of you to seek out your local county or state fairs and get involved. You'll have a great time and you just might bring home some ribbons of your own. If you don't feel like entering, you should at least stop by and see what your neighbors are up to. It's a bit of a leap back in time and one that will leave you with a smile on your face and probably some delicious treats in your belly.

By the way, two of my blue ribbons this year were for recipes you can find right here on this blog. My own creation of Chocolate Jelly took a blue ribbon and a Ball Canning Award in the soft spreads division. The meyer lemon vanilla bean marmalade also won a blue ribbon and a superintendent's ribbon. You can find both of those recipes in the recipe index by clicking here.

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