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Show your stuff at the county fair

Once upon a time in the golden olden days, county fairs appeared along busy trade routes. They provided a perfect venue for the agricultural set to display their wares. Sales, exchanges, new ideas for growing crops and raising animals, and new friendships formed amid a festive atmosphere.

County fairs evolved to include rides, games, rodeos, horse racing, hot-air balloons, corn-husking and pie-eating contests. The backbone of the county fair has long been the friendly competition between fellow gardeners, cooks, canners, quilters, seamstresses, raisers of livestock and artists of all mediums.

I have good news in case you haven’t heard — it’s time to forge new memories with family and friends, because the Jackson County Fair is back for 2021, and so is the Open Class for exhibitors of all ages. There are a few modifications this year. More on that later.

I spoke with Kay Killian, superintendent of the Open Class for Art, which covers handmade art, pottery and ceramics. “It’s one of those things that I think puts the country in county fair,” Kay explained. “The community can actually participate by putting in crafts or art or needlework or canning.”

Walking through a rainbow of colored ribbons adorning the efforts of so many makes me appreciate that others care enough to share a part of themselves with their neighbors. They’re proud of their accomplishments and invite others to have a look.

I asked Kay about her role in the doings. “A superintendent is more about making it happen but not doing the judging.”

Speaking of the two coordinators, Kathy Stalker and Kerri Tompkins, Kay added, “These two gals really have a passion to make it happen. Open Class had gone away from the fair for a few years. They wanted to grow it back up.”

In return for their effort, they saw nearly a doubling of entries each year.

“And that’s what’s kind of sad about this year, because we’re starting again.”

Instead of promoting in February as in years past, the final decision to have a fair couldn’t be made until sometime in May because of COVID uncertainty.

Behind the scenes workers put a lot of effort into displaying the work. As superintendent of art, Kay will spend the day getting everything hung and looking great.

Baking, a favorite category, is on hiatus for this year, much to the disappointment of the judges and those of us who love seeing what others have whipped up. A lot of deliberation went into the decision, but they thought it best to err on the safe side. By next year, I will have perfected my trio of shortbread delights.

Other Open Class categories include: from the garden (with a theme contest to dress up a vegetable or fruit), flowers and potted plants, photography, art, hobbies and crafts, fiber arts, textiles, canning and livestock. Visit The Expo user-friendly website to download the complete Open Class exhibitors handbook and entry form. Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, July 5.

Entering is free, and just maybe you’ll collect a nice ribbon for your efforts. More entries make a merrier fair and help us celebrate the slow but steady return to normalcy.

There are important changes to the fair this year. Depending on our county risk level, they are limiting the number of attendees. Tickets must be purchased in advance, either at Food 4 Less or online. Price of admission does not include the headliner concerts, which require separate tickets and also are limited. If we’re at high or moderate risk (where we are now) the headliner concerts will be held in the north parking lot. If we finally achieve a low risk category, they will reopen the Bi-Mart Amphitheater. So, if you’re dragging your feet, please get vaccinated so we can lift all restrictions countywide.

Secure your tickets and enter your finery for all to appreciate.

“To me it’s the real connection to the community.” Kay couldn’t have said it better.

Meanwhile, stay cool.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Find her on the Ferris wheel, carousel or at pcdover@hotmail.com.