For thousands of county residents, the Crow Wing County Fair means good food and carnival rides. For hundreds of others, it is a time to put their baking, canning, sewing or artistic skills to the test.
Five judges and 12 county staff members spent Tuesday afternoon and night judging the exhibits in the Fine Arts Building.
"You want to take the time to look at things carefully," said Marilyn Rabehl of Brainerd who examined the eggs, honey, dried goods and canned goods open class. She has been judging at local fairs for about 10 years.
Rabehl compared the egg color, shape and size consistency.
"It's presentation," Rabehl said when she decided the blue-ribbon winner. The entrant nestled the eggs in straw in a wicker basket.
Rabehl learned what a good egg presentation should look like while raising chickens for 4-H during her youth. Rabehl also learned to can with her mother for 4-H.
"Canning is such a science," Rabehl said.
The most important part of canning is the correct processing time. Food that is not processed long enough can cause food poisoning, Rabehl said.
She constantly checked USDA and University of Minnesota Extension canning guidelines to be sure each entrant used the correct processing time before considering the canned good for an award. For those canned properly, Rabehl examined each exhibit based on color, consistency, size, clarity and color.
"It's almost an art people don't do anymore," said Elaine Johnson, of Brainerd, who has canned since her youth. She judged the breads, cakes and cookies open class.
Sometimes the decisions are tough.
"I hope I don't have to have a reason for that," Rabehl said about a class of honey.
Johnson judged for the first time this year after going through judging training earlier this summer. She learned about baking and canning in 4-H and continues the skill.
"Who actually sits down and kneads and bakes bread anymore?" Johnson said.
She said she looks for the work that goes into each exhibit in addition to the moisture, flavor, texture, size and uniformity.
"They discourage you from tasting a lot of things," Johnson said. But sometimes you just have to, she added.
All the judges took a break during the afternoon to sample some of the baked goods.
Joyce Pappenfus of St. Cloud has been judging fairs for 34 years. She used to judge 10 to 12 fairs a summer, but this summer she is judging three.
She judged the quilts, crocheting and embroidery. She said she looks for quality workmanship, even stitching, appealing color, texture and fabrics and creativity.
Pappenfus said she enjoys judging because she gets to see what new ideas are out there. This year there were quilts with cotton blend fabrics that looked like leather and suede.
"I'm just really happy people are interested in entering at the county fair," Johnson said. "You don't have to be an expert to enter."
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