Field Days competitons aim to be family friendly
“We have a gardener who comes in and judges the vegetables. We have people from the garden club who judge the flowers and plants. We have a professional weaver coming to judge the weaving.”
—Megan Sutton, Field Days Home and Garden Director
NEW HAVEN — How does a judge in Addison County Fair and Field Days Home and Garden Department competitions assess crafts, home-grown vegetables, art work?
Quality of workmanship, flavor, distinctiveness …
Bethany Barry, who was judging a fish tank filled with little crocheted fish in the Frances Monroe Building at the New Haven fairgrounds on Monday, was especially pleased with the creativity of the project.
The submission reminded her of the value of “(seeing) that people have the ingenuity, actually the engineering skills.
“I’ve been working at Field Days for quite a while,” Barry added. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The scores of competitions at Field Days, which will continue through Saturday, keep Addison Country residents personally involved in the fair, giving average citizens a chance to exercise their creativity and potentially win bragging rights among friends and neighbors.
“As a board, (we want) to keep this a very family friendly, positive experience,” said Megan Sutton, the director of Home and Garden Department competitions, which centered around all sorts of foods, drawing, crocheting and horticulture.
Sutton noted that the volunteer judges she picks are qualified.
“We have a gardener who comes in and judges the vegetables,” she said. “We have people from the garden club who judge the flowers and plants. We have a professional weaver coming to judge the weaving.”
Although she’s been working at the Home and Garden Department and as a fair board member for six years now, Sutton’s roots at Field Days go back decades.
“I showed here as a kid,” she reminisced. “When I was young, we lived right down the road. We could walk here or ride our horse if I wanted to be in the horse show.”
QUICK BREAD JUDGMENT
“Flavor is most important to me,” Leicester resident Kathy Sargent said.
Sargent and other judges assessed the merits of several types of baked goods, including muffins and quick breads.
At the quick bread segment, the judges tasted a sweeter quick bread, then an eggy low-carb bread, and finally a kiwi flavored version of the snack that earned special praise. The other members of Sargent’s team were judges Graham Sutton, Marci Hays and Marci’s 14-year-old daughter, Abigail.
Although flavor is the most important quality for baked goods, according to Sargent, aftertaste is essential, too.
“The aftertaste, and that someone didn’t bake it a long time ahead,” Sargent said about other cornerstones of good baking submissions. “Because sometimes when people enter a lot, time management is difficult. We want to make sure the quick bread has not gone bad.”
After a sweet but unremarkable quick bread, the judges tasted a low-carb, yellow loaf.
None of the judges were very happy about the bread. Goshen resident Marci Hays, wincing a little, explained her issues with the low-carb quick bread.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting,” she said “It wasn’t as sweet — or moist. It didn’t also have a flavor.”
But although judging at Field Days means she occasionally tastes inadequate breads, Hays said she still loves her role. Exploring the different recipes from the various contestants is her favorite part of the gig.
Being a baked goods judge isn’t very difficult for Abigail Hays. In her spare time, the teenager makes floury treats herself.
“I don’t (bake) as much as I like to, but I do it when I can,” Abigail said.
As the committee began slicing up a kiwi quick bread, Graham Sutton talked about how his previous experiences have made him a valuable quick bread judge.
“I don’t have a whole lot of background in baking,” Sutton admitted. “But (I am) definitely a food enthusiast, which qualifies me. So, I have a definite background in food.”
The part of the competition he enjoyed most is getting to witness firsthand the creativity of Addison County’s bakers.
“Just seeing people being able to express themselves through food,” Sutton said.
On the kiwi bread, Sutton was impressed with its quirkiness.
“I thought it was a little outside of the box,” he said.
CROCHETING AND FAIRY GARDENS
At the crocheting competition, judges Bethany Barry of Cornwall and Kat Cyr of Ferrisburgh took a shine to the aquarium complete with crocheted fish. Shoreham resident Nicolee Terre’s creation won a blue-and-gold ribbon and a perfect score, earning full marks in overall appearance, design, workmanship and creativity.
The fish tank included crocheted flora and fauna such as seaweed, stingrays, seahorses, marlins and coral.
“It must have taken months, at least,” noted Cyr, a Ferrisburgh resident.
“Just because they’re so small, so intricate, stuffing it (is a challenge),” she said. “It took some yard and some pieces. A lot of careful hand-stitching and details.”
On the other side of the Monroe buildings, judges January Stearns (Cornwall) and Heather Morse (Charlotte) deliberated on whose “fairy gardens” deserved blue-and-gold ribbons.
Fairy gardens are plant/arts-and-crafts installations traditionally made by younger attendees of Field Days.
One top scorer was Leah Tierney, 12, a Bristol resident whose garden featured clay cows surrounded by a tiny electric fence and a few succulents.
“We gave that one a perfect score,” Morse said.
What she most appreciated about Tierney’s barn was its colorful design, but she also loved its organization.
“Everything is clean and bright, everything is very detail oriented,” Morse said. “The electric fence is cute, too.”
Stearns, who also judges the flower competition, said that a mix of honesty and tact are important qualities for a gardening judge.
“You want to encourage people to come back,” she said. “But you have to be diplomatic about it. You can’t give someone who spent no time (working on their product) a blue ribbon. It shouldn’t be in poor condition.”
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