County Fair entry ideas

10 Things You Should Enter Into The Fair Right Now

These are nearly guaranteed to win.

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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

Arts

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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.

1. Photography

Photography

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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!

 2. Paintings

Paintings

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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.

3. Stencils

Stencils

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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!

4. Pottery

Pottery

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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.

5. Macramé

Macrame

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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!!

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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

Bread

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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!

2. Cakes

Cake

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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.

3. Pie

Pie

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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.

4. Muffin

Muffin

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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.

5. Cookies

Cookies

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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!!

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9 Reasons Crocs Are The Only Shoes You Need

Crocs have holes so your swag can breathe.
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Do you have fond childhood objects that make you nostalgic just thinking about your favorite Barbie or sequenced purse? Well for me, its my navy Crocs. Those shoes put me through elementary school. I eventually wore them out so much that I had to say goodbye. I tried Airwalks and sandals, but nothing compared. Then on my senior trip in New York City, a four story Crocs store gleamed at me from across the street and I bought another pair of Navy Blue Crocs. The rest is history. I wear them every morning to the lake for practice and then throughout the day to help air out my soaking feet. I love my Crocs so much, that I was in shock when it became apparent to me that people don't feel the same. Here are nine reasons why you should just throw out all of your other shoes and settle on Crocs.

1. They are waterproof.

These bad boys can take on the wettest of water. Nobody is sure what they are made of, though. The debate is still out there on foam vs. rubber. You can wear these bad boys any place water may or may not be: to the lake for practice or to the club where all the thirsty boys are. But honestly who cares because they're buoyant and water proof. Raise the roof.


2. Your most reliable support system

There is a reason nurses and swimming instructors alike swear by Crocs. Comfort. Croc's clogs will make you feel like your are walking on a cloud of Laffy Taffy. They are wide enough that your toes are not squished, and the rubbery material forms perfectly around your foot. Added bonus: The holes let in a nice breeze while riding around on your Razor Scooter.

3. Insane durability

Have you ever been so angry you could throw a Croc 'cause same? Have you ever had a Croc bitten while wrestling a great white shark? Me too. Have you ever had your entire foot rolled like a fruit roll up but had your Crocs still intact? Also me. All I know is that Seal Team 6 may or may not have worn these shoes to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Just sayin'.


4. Bling, bling, bling

Jibbitz, am I right?! These are basically they're own money in the industry of comfortable footwear. From Spongebob to Christmas to your favorite fossil, Jibbitz has it all. There's nothing more swag-tastic than pimped out crocs. Lady. Killer.

5. So many options

From the classic clog to fashionable sneakers, Crocs offer so many options that are just too good to pass up on. They have fur lined boots, wedges, sandals, loafers, Maryjane's, glow in the dark, Minion themed, and best of all, CAMO! Where did your feet go?!

6. Affordable

Crocs: $30

Feeling like a boss: Priceless

7. Two words: Adventure Straps

Because you know that when you move the strap from casual mode chillin' in the front to behind the heal, it's like using a shell on Mario Cart.

8. Crocs cares

Okay, but for real, Crocs is a great company because they have donated over 3 million pairs of crocs to people in need around the world. Move over Toms, the Croc is in the house.

9. Stylish AF

The boys will be coming for you like Steve Irwin.

Who cares what the haters say, right? Wear with pride, and go forth in style.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.

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Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.


I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.


I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.


As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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