Let me back up a little bit. I've judged for the Iowa State Fair for a number of years and I feel very honored that they ask me back. It's a job that I truly look forward to each year because, in spite of the fact that it's a lot of work, it's also a whole lot of fun! The Superintendent of Fabric & Threads, Dorothy Faidley, does an absolutely unbelievable job of keeping everything organized and on track and the volunteers are incredibly hardworking and dedicated, many of them returning year after year. You've got to see it to truly understand how hard these people work and how organized they are.
Here's how it works. There were two of us judging this year and we judge independent of each other meaning that I judge my categories and the other person judges hers. The categories are arbitrarily divided up -- for example I'd judge all the even numbered categories. Towards the end of the day if one of us finishes our designated categories we start judging some of the other judge's remaining categories. After all the categories are judged we work together to determine the final awards, for example Best of Show, Best Hand Quilting, Best Machine quilting, etc. We never know what categories we're going to be judging and we don't look at any names or labels that might be on the quilts. We start judging at 8 a.m., take about a 10-15 minute break mid-morning, have a quick potluck salad lunch (which is always WONDERFUL!), take another brief break in the afternoon and keep judging until we're done. This year we finished at 9:30 p.m.!
When we arrive the volunteers already have the categories sorted and divided between the two judges. Here's what I saw when I walked in the door. Silly me! I assumed that they hadn't gotten the categories divided yet -- but boy, was I wrong! There were near-record numbers of entries ........
.....800+ quilts or quilted items!!!
I was absolutely flabbergasted! After a quick briefing for announcements and to clarify any questions we got started. This photo shows a number of the volunteers as we all got together for our briefing. They are a WONDERFUL bunch of women -- and men too!
I had every intention of taking lots of photos during the day but we were so darned busy that I only managed to take a couple. The photo at left shows my "judging area." You see all those quilts? I judged them all plus more! Just when I thought we'd gotten to the end -- they showed up with CARTS holding MORE quilts! It was a whole lot to judge and I was absolutely worn out -- but it was worth it because there were some wonderful quilts!
After judging the quilts are folded to a 24" width and hung immediately. It would be wonderful if they could hang every quilt full out but there simply isn't room to do that. The Blue Ribbon winners from each category are displayed in a separate room downstairs from the main exhibit. Having them in a separate place makes things a little awkward but it's the only way that the winners can be displayed without folding them too. (Sometimes it's hard to remember that the quilts at State Fair are only a small portion of the actual Fair and we need to share the space with lots of other beautiful hand-crafted items!)
All in all it was a good day. Veerrrryyyyyyy looooonnnnngggggg -- but also very good.