For the past decade, my family has entered the Deerfield Fair, in practically every category available. Canned Goods, Sewing, Arts, Needlecraft, etc. The month of September became the month of 'Hurry up and finish your crafts so we can submit everything we signed up for'. We would always sign up for more than our gracious (and very very patient) mom had time to help us with, but it was always a fun time. Each category got multiple blue ribbons, first place wasn't just set aside for 'best in show'. While it was always heartbreaking for my six-year-old self to get an 'honorable mention' or a third-place ribbon, there were plenty of areas that almost always got first prize. The list is broken down into the two best sections, arts, and baking. Here are the top ten that will get you closer to the Blue Ribbon!
Section 1: Arts & Crafts
This category pretty much encompasses all art. Photography, paintings, sketches, drawings, clay moldings, whittling, stenciled works, and wood painting/cloth painting. There are probably some others as well, but these are the main few. I've found that judges pretty much look for basic design principles and elements that make the art look clean and organized. If you submit art that follows basic principles of design, you're almost guaranteed one of the blue ribbons. This is especially true for photos and drawn art. If you're not exactly sure what principles of design are necessary, here's an article.
Finally, you'll want to make sure that your visual art isn't just empty art. A lot of the time, photographs are taken just for photographs. There are some instances where art is simply a really good image, like a landscape or family portraits. Remember that a lot of people will see these so that you can make your mark. Try to get across a theme. What do you have to say? Your art could be a societal critique (photographs conveying themes of greed, poverty, or other issues in today's world), or it could be an image showing the good (themes of kindness, love, gentleness, etc.). The most important things to remember are that this is your art, not someone else's, and to have fun! Make it yours and unique.
This one's super easy. All you have to do is get up and snap a shot, right? Well, if you want to compete yes. If you want to win, then you'll need to give a little more than that. You'll want to make sure that everything's even, and the horizon's not tilted! If you want to make a really good image, use some of these photography elements!
If you have a good steady hand and know the way to make a pretty painting (I honestly can't, but if you can!), or painting that makes a statement, judges aren't typically harsh. They're mostly looking for clear themes and messages or talent. Choose wisely.
The judges often aren't real harsh here, as long as you follow design elements and principles. This section is also easy to get first in if you have a good eye. Don't be basic, be extra. Do the opposite of what they expect. Use the stencils to create a layered effect. Use stencils with paint, crayons, things that they haven't seen before. Remember stenciling can be done on paper, clothing articles, objects like the above teapot, even wood!
Pottery is a section that typically doesn't have a whole lot of entries. This is one reason it's easier to win. Again, clean objects and unique designs are what the judges are looking for.
Remember those third grade friendship bracelets you used to make? That's macramé. Create one with a clean, unique design and color pattern, and submit it!
Section 2: Baking
Time to cooken with der swedish cheffen!!
Even if you're not a 'master' in the kitchen, the baking category has some great and easy sections. Between basic chocolate chip cookies and simple quick-breads, the baking category is almost a no-fail section. Judges for this category just look for a good (or great) cookie. If you've got ANY experience in baking, just try. Even if you fail, you have the leftover cookies and cakes to cry on.
1. Quick bread
There are some pretty unique flavors for the quick bread section. This is a great opportunity to try something new. Bread is pretty easy to create, but you'll want to test the recipe a few times to make sure it tastes as good as it looks (and vice versa…) As far as I can see, you don't need to come up with your own recipe. However, if your fair requires it, just learn the basics of bread making, try a few recipes, then create one with your own combination of flavors. Who knows, you may even find your new favorite recipe through this!
From Chocolate to Zucchini there are many cake categories to choose from, plus an additional 'other' section. Judges are looking for bold flavors and a light texture.
Again, bold flavors, and the correct texture. If your crust is soggy and gross, the judges won't score it as high. If it tastes bitter, or distracts from the flavor inside the pie, again, you'll be scored lower. You also want to have a killer filling recipe. If you categorize a pie as 'blueberry', you have to make sure that's the main flavor, and the spices/supplemental flavors aren't overpowering.
Muffins are really easy to make. They're right up there next to cookies in terms of difficulty. Basically, you just want to follow the other tips. Make sure that your flavors aren't battling each other for stardom, and that the textures are right. Finally, you want to make sure that it looks appetizing and perfectly round/proportional.
I believe that the 'cookies' section has the most options flavor-wise. My fair has eleven, most of which I've never tried before. However, I don't believe I've ever had a year where my chocolate chip cookies got second. This is with a BASIC recipe I got off of the back of a bag of chocolate chips. I'm serious about how easy this is!
While I cannot guarantee that you're going to get the first prize every time, these tips and categories are the easiest for my region. I do hope that they help you because it's an awesome feeling getting blue ribbons!! Also, there are a ton of other categories that you can enter that are fun to create and enter in. They're not as easy, but they're definitely more rewarding when you win. Now go, enter your fair!!