What it’s like to compete in a county fair

Author’s Note: Check out tomorrow’s article for the full list of entries I entered in the Salem County Fair Home Economics Competition.

This past week was the Salem County fair, a fun week for the entire family to participate in different events, see farm animals on display and celebrate the work of local artists, farmers and community leaders.

I’ve only started being seriously involved in the county fair last year. In 2018, I competed in the Salem County Fair Queen pageant. I did not place, but it was still a fun experience to try something other than the one town pageant that I’d normally participate in.

Being apart of the county fair is, honestly, a wholesome experience. Growing up, I never had the opportunity to formally be a 4-H member or in the Future Farmers of America program. (That’s totally okay because I want to go into sports writing.) But, it still would have been fun to have farm animals for show and participate in livestock competitions.

That being said, joining the Home Economics competition last year allowed me to somewhat feel like I’m involved in that 4-H competition atmosphere. Sure, the ribbons are fun to collect, but just having my name out there along with some fun pieces of artwork is an accomplishment in itself.

People say the journey towards the goal is more important than the goal itself, and I completely agree. Last week, I spent about 12 hours putting together a scrapbook from my time at Rowan University that I will cherish forever. Getting all of those photos together in a book that will make me so happy to look through forever was much more enjoyable than just seeing it displayed at the fair. (I did get a ribbon for this scrapbook, so that’s pretty fun, too.)

When you put in the hard work to enter artwork, crafts or even produce, it’s so rewarding to see it among other incredible artwork at the fair. I love looking at the wall of paintings and seeing mine in the corner or looking at jewelry and seeing mine next to others. You feel proud to say, “There’s my entry.”

That being said, you also feel proud when you win ribbons. Winning is not everything, as I mentioned that the journey is more rewarding than the final product. But when you enter something and you feel so proud of it and know that it will place in the competition, that’s extremely rewarding, too.

In the Salem County Fair Home Ec competition, every entry is scored based on its quality – honorable mention, good, very good or excellent. From there, it is scored first, second or third in its respective class.

In the past two years, I’ve earned six ribbons between first, second and third. Honestly in that time, I felt a sense of pride in the validation that what was a fun side hobby when I was younger is something that I still hung onto.

Now, the overarching purpose of these competitions is to get Best in Show. Overtime, you learn what exactly the judges are looking for in order to deem something the “best in show.” I’m not too concerned about winning the ribbon (right now), but eventually I would love to put up a quality piece of artwork and win that big blue ribbon.

This year, I entered a new competition to get more involved with the fair. This was the skillet throwing competition. It is absolutely a blast and something I’ll be competing in for year’s to come.

The skillet throwing competition consists of participants, separated by age groups, having three chances to throw a frying pan, underhand style, as far as possible. With the Salem County Fair, you have to keep the skillet on the “line” and not go further than the red target located about 50 feet from where you throw.

My first competition was on Thursday, August 11, 2022. My sister and mother also competed. Let me tell you, there are people who have done this for years and developed a certain technique for winning.

In my three throws, I definitely downgraded each time but it’s okay because they take the best throw. I threw the first frying pan 19 feet, the second one about 12 feet, and the third about six feet as a fluke throw. The competition is not easy but it’s worth trying and stepping out of your comfort-zone. Free to compete and you get a cool participation ribbon as well as the chance to win a first, second or third place ribbon? Definitely worth it.

Participating in the Salem County Fair the past few years when I didn’t think I had the chance in years past is definitely a wonderful opportunity.

I’m going into next year in full competitive mode, entering produce, the Home Ec competition and the skillet throw all week. However, as fun as the competitions are, I know I’ll have a wonderful time preparing for the competitions and growing herbs to enter in the fair in 2023.

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