Fair judges have tough duty during county fair

The volunteer crew charged with determining the winning entries in the Open Class Quilting Division at last week?s Marion County Fair include (from left) Shauna Lacio, Hillsboro, superintendent; Colleen Westerman, Galva, judge; and Flo Rahn, Hillsboro, superintendent. Aleen Ratlzaff/Free Press

If you took a stroll through the 4-H Building on the Marion Fairgrounds mid-morning last Wednesday, chances are you?d encounter a handful of judges assessing entries and assigning awards in some of the 4-H and open class divisions.

Tony Foster, a judge for the 4-H Spacetech Division, was examining a robot built by 10-year-old Weston Gaines, a fifth-grader at Peabody-Burns Elementary School and a member of the Peabody Achievers 4-H Club.

Weston, whose robot received a blue ribbon, said it can pick up pencils and balls??anything like that.?

Spacetech includes rocketry, robotics, astronomy, and Global Position Systems and Global Information Systems.

?We just added computers,? Foster said. ?So all of these make up the Spacetech projects, so this is one of the cool things you can see at the fair.?

Foster, who works as a technical marketing manager for a Fortune 500 company and lives in Salina, said he keeps plenty busy during fair season. This summer he?s judging at eight fairs, including Marion, Riley, Dickenson and Cowley counties.

He said he grew up in the 4-H program, starting at age 7 and continuing until he was 18.

?Ever since I?ve gotten out of the 4-H program?well, you never really get out?I have been in the Spacetech program at the state level, working on state fair rules and exhibits,? Foster said.

A few feet away, Autumn Chisholm of Durham and Keli Wray of Hesston were judging food entries, an open class category.

?They need to bring more stuff so we have something to eat,? Wray said with a smile.

Chisholm said she?s judged for four years.

This year, though, entries were down?less than 15, she added.

?We know there?s bakers out there in Marion County,? Wray said.

This year?s items included jam, cookies, yeast breads such as zwieback and some desserts.

?Cookies seem to be a favorite,? Wray said.

Stephanie Regier of Canton, superintendent of the division, said people need to be encouraged to participate in the various divisions?not just foods.

?This year there are no entry fees,? Regier said. ?I know there?s not great payouts, but that?s not why you do it. You do it for fun.?

Renae Riedy, KSU Extension agent, said fair judges have a vast amount of knowledge in their areas, many with 20-plus years of experience.

To handle all the 4-H entries this year, her office rounded up 32 judges, with four judges also judging in open class events.

Those judges come from across the state, she said, including Reno, McPherson, Butler, Harvey, Lyon, Saline and Marion counties.

One judge was from Stillwater, Okla., she added.

According to the Marion County Extension Office, fair superintendents handle a lot of the details involved in their areas. They collect entries and answer questions as well as assist the judges as needed.

That morning, superintendents Flo Rahn and Shauna Lacio, both of Hillsboro, were overseeing in the Quilting Division.

?Participation by the local people this year was very good,” said Rahn, who has 12 years of experience in her role.

For Lacio, this year was her first.

Twenty participants submitted a total of 53 items, Lacio said.

Rahn added, ?Very few just bring one.?

Categories included quilts, wall hangings, handiwork and garments.

In her first year, Colleen Westerman, from Galva, was serving as the judge for hand-quilted, machine quilted and wall-hanging quilt classes.

In the southwest corner of the building, Shirley Gardner of South Hutchinson was judging the Arts and Crafts Division.

?I judge at the state fair as well as a lot of the county fairs,? said Gardner, who has served in that role for some 18 years.

As a first-time superintendent in the Arts & Crafts open division, Callyane Lacio, 15, of Hillsboro, estimated they had about 25 entries, which included a variety?from painting to Lego to tie dyes.

She said she got involved because her grandmother is on the fair board, and her mother also is active in volunteering.

Three of her photos swept the top three awards in the junior open class of the Photography Division.

?I’ve been involved in everything for a long time,? Lacio said.

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