New fair competitions highlight creativity and art

If you are headed to the beach for one last weekend of summer this Labor Day you might want to pick up a shell or two. One of this year’s new competitions is seashell art. It joins the line up with traditional fair competitions like artwork, photography, livestock, cooking, canned food, flowers, woodworking, decorated cakes and more.

Painted rock competition winners at the 2021 N.C. State Fair

“It is exciting to announce new competitions to go along with categories that are always
so popular, like decorated cakes and quilts,” said John Buettner, competitive exhibits
coordinator. “We have competitions to appeal to a wide variety of individuals from painted rocks, terrarium building, shoe decorating and even coloring sheets. I
encourage everyone, and all ages, to check out the competitions because just like the N.C. State Fair itself, there is something for everyone.” In 2021, more than 36,000 items were entered in competitions at the fair.

While the 2022 N.C. State Fair might not start until Oct. 13, most entry deadlines are Sept. 15. Exhibitors must have registered prior to the entry deadline. Entry forms can be mailed in or exhibitors can enter online using ShoWorks, an online application system that is widely used at fairs across the country.

How to Use ShoWorks:

“Exhibitors can enter at the website or by downloading the ShoWorks app. This will help
streamline the process, report results quicker and be a way that exhibitors can manage multiple
exhibits at a fair or even several fairs,” Buettner said.

When fairgoers click Enter a Competition at the N.C. State Fair’s website they’ll be asked to create an account with ShowWorks. You’ll have to choose a password and enter your contact information, including social security or EIN number. The social security number is optional but those who choose not to enter one will be ineligible for prize money should they win. Next you will complete a W-9 form, which is a new step this year. Finally you’ll choose the class and division you wish to enter by a drop down menu of choices. Once you check out, a summary of your order will be emailed to you. After entries close on Sept. 15, entry tags and a handout with drop-off times and a map of drop-off locations will be sent to those who have entered a competition.

The Story of the Seashells:

“People send me contest ideas over the course of the year,” said Buettner. “Someone sent me a magazine article mentioning ink-pen decorated seashells (kinda like doodle art). So, I included decorated seashells in the long list of competitions in Handicrafts (what we used to call Handicrafts & Hobbies).

“I am kind of a seashell picker upper when I go to the beach and over the years, I’ve amassed a large collection of shells. Others here in the office have the same affliction.” Buettner added. “So we have pooled our unwanted shells and have them in a large box for people to pick from if they don’t have a shell to decorate. We don’t want them back. I don’t think we will run out of shells – ever!”

“We also like having a coastal-themed contest to counterbalance the mountain-themed decorated trees (Christmas trees but they can be decorated in any holiday theme).

Art and photography-inspired flower arrangements

For those who are big fans of the N.C. Art Museum’s Art in Bloom exhibit held each spring, here’s your chance to try floral arranging to complement a piece of art on display.

“Every year we produce themes for the flower arrangement competitions in the Flower Show, now known as just “Flowers”. We have a lot of flower arrangement categories, and it can be exhausting to come up with unique themes for each of the THREE shows during the fair.” said Buettner. “We don’t have the extensive art collection of the museum, so we will use smaller pieces of framed art and photographs that will sit behind the arrangements on the shelf. It’s more like small flower arrangements to complement a keepsake photo on a person’s fireplace mantel. The blending of flower arranging and fine art have proven to be crowd pleasers in art museums across the country, so I thought we would try it.”

Samples of the artwork and rules for the competitions are found in the Competition guidelines online at

Dropping off items to enter into competitions at the 2021 N.C. State Fair is exciting

“We never know how these things will work, or how the public will take to something so new but it is our favorite thing – developing a new competition for the fair,” Buettner said. “Everyone has a talent and it is exciting to see what types of entries we get in the hundreds of fair competitions each year. I hear all the time from fairgoers that they can do that, but they never enter. Here’s your reminder, entries are open until Sept. 15 – this year may be your time to shine.”

About Funhouse

On the blog I go by Fun House (AKA Heather Overton). At the Fair you'll find me checking out the blue ribbon winners or hanging out in Heritage Circle. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite part of the Fair, but I can tell you one thing I hate - leaving it on the last day. I can't wait for opening day!

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