When looking at all the blue-ribbon winners at the North Carolina State Fair, the story of how the food, art, or livestock got there isn’t always at the forefront of the mind. From baking and gardening to art and livestock, competitions at the State Fair offer a chance for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to showcase their talents and passions.
With 394 divisions and 4,027 classes of competitions to enter, there is something for everyone to take an interest in. Whether you’re a seasoned professional in your choice of competition or someone just getting started, there is something at the fair that is the perfect fit for you.
“We have a lot of classic categories and even a few new categories for competitions, all general competitions are free of charge to enter,” John Buettner, competitive exhibits coordinator said. “Now is a great time to start thinking about what you want to enter and make sure to read the rules and follow deadlines.”
Speaking of new categories, some new additions this year include the floating flower competition, where flowers are displayed in a bowl of water. Underwater flower arrangements are also being brought back this year for people to enter.
If flowers aren’t your thing, don’t worry. The Home Chef Challenge is perfect for people who love all things in the kitchen. This year, the Home Chef Challenge is introducing “Bella’s Birthday Bash” where dogs are the taste-testers for the food prepared.
Or maybe you’re more into arts and handicrafts, like Jillian Curtis, who entered 13 projects her first time entering at the fair last year. Thirteen projects is a lot to think about making, but add on a theme for every piece and you see the dedication behind the entries.
“I have a friend who enters competitions every year, so she told me all about it,” Curtis said. “We both found a time to go through all the crafts available for entry, I signed up for them and then thought how funny it would be if they were all corn themed.”
Of course, a theme for your entries is not necessary, but it is a fun way to challenge yourself and make a cohesive project out of your creations. From decorating shoes to wood burning, Curtis both stuck with what she knew and explored the lengths of her creativity through the competitions at the State Fair.
“I wanted to do arts and crafts and was most excited about the decorated shoes and hand lettering, so I did the card,” Curtis said. “Once I got the idea to make everything corn themed, I got so excited about all the competitions. I even bought a wood burning kit.”
The competitions at the State Fair are a way for people to get their creativity flowing and experiment with things they have a passion for. Curtis said, “crafting for me is like a therapy, I love to craft and its very fun. Having something to put energy into is why I entered. I didn’t realize how my art would be displayed, so it was fun for my kids to see the projects in the case.”
Seeing her kids excited about her creations just added to her experience with competitions. She admits that they even want to enter competitions themselves this year. Good news for them, there are competitions that focus on school grade art and the talents of younger generations.
Curtis says that finding all 13 of her entries at the fair was almost like a scavenger hunt saying, “The anticipation was real. We got to the decorated shoes display, and mine had a ribbon. I wasn’t expecting to win anything, I just did it for fun, so that was great.”
Out of the 4,027 classes of competitions, 2,324 give prize money to the top three ribbon winners. Receiving second place in handwritten card and third place in decorated shoes, Curtis was able to rack up some prize money of her own, a great surprise since she entered the competitions purely for fun.
She didn’t know if she received a ribbon until the fair began, so going around to the display cases and finding her entries was thrilling. Curtis even made a scavenger hunt for her Instagram followers, friends, and family to inform people about what entries were hers and which ones she got ribbons in.
”It was fun for people to follow along my journey,” Curtis said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t know that competitions are a big part of the fair, that there’s this whole craft community. A lot of people posted some of my crafts, it was so fun to see everyone’s comments on social media.“
Curtis is looking forward to her journey at the 2023 N.C. State Fair as well. When asked if her themed items will become a trend for her future years, she admitted that she wanted to take her idea and run with it saying, “I don’t have a theme idea for next year yet, but I want to do it again. I want to do this year’s fair theme, Best.Day.Ever!, with a twist, something that makes it unique.”
Last year might have been her first year entering in competitions at the fair, but it seems like this is a hobby that will stick. Curtis encourages anyone interested in any of the competitions to take the leap and enter.
“Do it! It doesn’t cost anything, its super fun, and it makes you feel like you’re a part of the fair and the fun,” Curtis said. “There’s all different levels of crafters, it’s so fun to look at everyone’s creations.”
The deadline for submitting entries is Sep. 15. On the website, you can find information about submission dates and rules for your entries. Don’t wait until the last minute to register and remember that if you don’t have time to complete something, that’s okay! There is no penalty for not turning in an item.
This year, all contest entrants are required to submit W-9 forms along with their entry submissions. This ensures that necessary tax-related information is collected from participants. Guides and sample forms can be found on the fairs website.
Go to ncstatefair.org to learn more about competitions. Find Jillian on Instagram at jillianthegardenercurtis to keep up with her N.C. State Fair competition journey, and see what she comes up with for 2023.