Youth do a ‘Fair Day’s’ work
Lola Bane, co-superintendent of the Youth Department at the Jefferson County Fair, has seen thousands of youth entries come through the door over the 17 years she has served.
“This, to me, is fun,” she laughed as the 63rd annual fair came to a close last Saturday.
“Fun,” she laughed, along with she and the dedicated staffers who helped take entries, set up, judge and clean up.
“We had over 2,300 entries this year,” Bane said. “When I started back 17 years ago, we had around 125.”
The youth exhibit is open to all children between the ages of 2 and 18. Each entrant can submit up to 20 entries for judging.
“Each child is judged by the Danish System,” Bane explained. That means they are judged on their own work, not in competition with another child’s work.
Youth categories cover everything from baking and canning to handicrafts. Literally from A to Z, 26 categories are subdivided so that there is sure to be a class for each child’s potential entry. Each school is listed as a category so that any art project from a child’s school days can be an entry. All holidays are covered, which, Bane said, helps ensure an area where an entry can be placed.
From wall hangings to pencil drawings, doll clothes to legos, every potential medium can be found as swarms of eager children arrive on Saturday before the fair begins, loaded down with their entries.
Approximately 60 people come in, Bane said, to help collect the items, making sure that each entrant’s name is on the item, but not visible to judges. Once all the items are arranged on dozens of tables and shelves, nearly 70 judges come in to award ribbons.
Entries can receive a blue, red or white ribbon for first, second and third. Highest honors in different categories are marked with the coveted purple ribbon delineating “Best of Show.” Those winners are gathered and placed in a special display area for all to see.
Noah Portrey, age 4, was the youngest entrant into this year’s fair. He brought 12 different items and ended up with 11 blue ribbons and one red. A necklace he created was his favorite, he shared as he showed off that blue ribbon.
All ribbon winners get premiums, Bane explained. They get $3 for first, $2 for second and $1 for third.
“But it’s not about the money,” she stressed. “It’s the excitement of the ribbons.”
Jennifer Cogle, Bane’s granddaughter and now co-superintendent alongside her, agreed.
“The kids get super excited to show their crafts to those who are not in their family,” Cogle said. A former exhibitor herself, she now teaches English at Shepherdstown Middle School.
“I even saw some of my students’ projects entered,” she proudly reported. “I didn’t tell them to enter, but they did.”
Cogle also teaches tye dye at 4-H Camp and saw many of her students’ entries at the fair.
“They are so excited to see the ribbons they earned for their entries,” she said. “They jump up and down and some even dance,” she laughed.
The excitement drew Michael Withrow, agriculture teacher from Wildwood Middle School who oversaw the Youth FFA exhibits located in the same building as all the youth exhibits.
“I kind of mingled with this end of the building and just stayed,” he shared.
It was Withrow’s first time at the Jefferson County Fair. Exhibits of this kind are not found at the Berkeley County Youth Fair where he had previously participated.
“At first it was very overwhelming,” Withrow said. “But to see a 7 or 9 year old so exchited about a project and a ribbon is great.”
Withrow shared that his favorite entry was a painting of a combine done by Mackenzie Ring. That picture received a Best of Show ribbon.
Bane, laughing, said that one of the entries that will forever stand out to her was entered this year. It was a small lego structure of an unflushed toilet.
“These kids have the imaginations,” Bane laughed.
She also pointed out the best of show in the lego category, a battery operated ferris wheel constructed by James Mood.
“The most special thing of all is that they all have imaginations,” Bane stressed. “They are the future leaders of our nation.”
She went on to say that an exhibit has never been turned away. A category is found to fit each one. And once the children discover they can enter up to 20 exhibits, most do.
“I would say about 75 percent enter the 20,” Cogle said.
A rarity for a fair to have such a broad range of youth entries, Bane said she has been contacted by fairs in Ohio and Kentucky and asked to send her category listings so that the idea can be copied.