Rhylee Pope of Clinton has a lot to brag about. The 11-year old placed first in the commercial sweet potato display competition, earned $180 and a blue ribbon for her perfect sweet potatoes. Rhylee’s sweet potatoes were chosen first from 18 other entries. The judges chose her display based on the cleanliness and neatness of her three bins of potatoes.
North Carolina ranks first nationally in sweet potatoes. And they are our state vegetable. Rhylee’s were grown on Pope’s Farm in Sampson County.
Picking potatoes to bring to the fair is not as easy as you might think. Once they are chosen from the field and brought to the fair the work begins. “I pick the ones from the field that I like and wash them in water and bring them to the fair,” said Rhylee. “I choose potatoes that look the same and have no worm holes. Each potato is brushed off and placed in the bin.” This process might sound simple, but it takes about two hours to prep the bins ready for judging.
This is the second year Rhylee competed at the fair. She placed third last year in the single-box competition and first in the 5-plate display.
In addition to sweet potatoes, Rhylee shows lambs in the Youth Livestock show. She placed 6th in the market lamb competition this year.
“My favorite part of going to the fair is showing,” she said. “I like showing lambs and staying overnight in the barn. And I like showing my sweet potatoes. I don’t really ride the rides.”
Sweet potatoes, apples, watermelons, pumpkins and more, are on display in the Exhibition Center.