State Fair competitions return

Published 5:07 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

You can’t win blue-ribbon bragging rights if you don’t enter the State Fair of Virginia competitions.

Blue-ribbon winner Novelle Wilkerson of Prince George County said people need to “get out of their comfort zones” and enter a competition. That’s what she did.

Wilkerson had purchased a beginner crochet kit to take on a long-distance road trip. After she taught herself to crochet, she decided to enter a couple of crochet categories in the State Fair’s creative arts competitions last year.

A mosaic crocheted afghan that took her 8 months to make won a blue ribbon and a “Best of Section” award.

Over 3,500 Virginians entered the State Fair’s creative arts, culinary and horticulture competitions last year, and their entries were displayed during the fair. Some categories offer winners small cash prizes in addition to bragging-right ribbons. But it’s the blue ribbons that many competitors care about the most.

The fair’s competitions have categories for bold bakers, green growers, knowledgeable knitters, weaving wizzes and more. And there are categories for both adults and youth.

Competition guides with entry deadlines, registration and category descriptions for culinary and creative arts and horticulture entries are online at StateFairVa. org. The 2023 State Fair of Virginia will be held from Sept. 22 through Oct. 1.

New this year are grilled cheese and charcuterie competitions. “Grilled Cheese Your Way” will be held on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 1 p.m. Competitors will be invited to bring ingredients for their signature grilled cheese, which they will prepare in front of a live audience using skillets and burners provided by the fair.

Those interested in competing in the Charcuterie Competition will need to assemble their boards using at least four Virginia products, and then bring the charcuterie platters to the fair for judging.

The fair also is offering new Virginia outdoor-themed categories, including deer and fish mounts and antler art.

Returning favorites include a salsa competition and a scarecrow contest — both part of the horticulture category.

Longtime competitor and multiple-ribbon winner Lesley Russell from Henrico County said everyone has something they are good at, and she encourages other Virginians to try their hand at entering at least one of the competitions.

“They don’t have to be crazy like me and bake for four days straight,” Russell quipped. “But everyone should try.”

Sarah Jane Thomsen, the fair’s manager of agriculture education and strategic programming partnerships, noted that anyone can enter the arts and crafts, culinary and horticulture competitions if they meet the criteria.

“Some people think you have to win at a county fair before you can compete at the state fair, but that’s not the case,” she said.

She added that in addition to winning ribbons and bragging rights, competitors in many classes contribute to the fair’s mission of educating the public about agriculture and drawing connections to where fairgoers’ food is grown.

The State Fair is held each fall at its permanent home at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. The event celebrates the best of Virginia’s past, present and future through scholarship initiatives, creative programming and a focus on the commonwealth’s agriculture and natural resources industries.