A slice of Americana
HUGHESVILLE – While bull riding and the demolition derby are some of the flashier competitions during fair week, there is a group that consistently vies for more humble honors. And more delicious.
A few barns on the fairgrounds are set aside for those exhibiting their baked goods, canned goods, plants, crafts and hobbies, all hopeful of scoring a blue ribbon and earning bragging rights to declare their entry is the best in the county.
For a small entry fee per item, anyone is eligible to submit their creations to the fair board. Judging is done by third-party groups brought in from outside of the county. Those who take first are eligible to compete at the state Farm Show.
Stacie Hart thrives on the spirit of competition. Hart enters her baked goods into the fair every year for a shot at the state competition.
“I don’t care about money, I just want the ribbon,” she said with a laugh.
This year, she got her wish in double, winning a blue ribbon in both the apple pie and chocolate cake categories. She’ll go on to compete at the state level, which she has done several times, once placing fourth for an apple pie recipe.
Hart invents all recipes she enters into the fair and practices baking year-round, with clients at her hair salon along with her husband’s students and co-workers at Pennsylvania College of Technology acting as taste testers.
To be able to compete at the state level, Hart said she has to mix it up.
“They’re looking for something different, not a ‘plain Jane’ apple pie,” she said.
While entries have to meet certain qualifications (for example, an apple pie, she said, has to be at least 60 percent apples), Hart gets creative and puts a spin on her baked treats.
This year for her apple pie entry, she combined the classic dessert with cinnamon buns for a tasty result. She said she just tries to think of combinations people would enjoy.
Hart’s recipes have been such a hit that she currently is putting together a cook book, “Recipes from the Hart,” due to be published this December.
The Hughesville Garden Club also is a big part of exhibiting.
The group helps to prepare the exhibit space for those showing plants at the fair and tends to the plants during the week.
Pat and Jim Lundy are two club members who sit with the plants during fair week to make sure nothing is disturbed. The two enjoy putting together plant entries for the fair alongside the garden club. For this year’s competition, the club chose to go with the theme “Treasure Your Memories” for everything they submitted. They put together a few home decor displays, placing first with their tea table setting and earning second for an arrangement of plants and photos.
While garden club members do not act as judges, Pat Lundy said she had witnessed judging when the Penn State Master Gardners come to examine the plants.
“I like the judging. It’s neat to listen to the judges determine what makes a good plant,” she said.
It’s important that those submitting to the fair submit quality work. Jim Lundy said that being the only plant in a category doesn’t necessarily earn the entrant a blue ribbon. It must meet the qualifications the judges look for.
Another group submitting their efforts for judgment is the Allegheny Grange.
Members Helen Mayer, Vivian Hall and John Hall were at the fair representing the grange and shared that they enjoyed putting together their blue ribbon-winning display on Pennsylvania facts, both for the educational part and the camaraderie of the group.
Also, the prize money helps. The group received a $110 award for its first-place endeavor, which the grange uses toward funding its family friendly activities.
“It’s nice for a small grange like us,” Vivian Hall said.