Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 27, 2012

Sister Gaila receives the purple

It's been many years since I produced exhibits for county fairs. But as a youngster, I spent many summers preparing for them. But I didn't pass that on to our daughters. At the few fairs I took them to when they were young, they were most interested in the food and carnival rides.

I began thinking about this because a recent Manhattan Mercury supplement urged readers to attend this weekend's Riley County Fair and Kaw Valley Rodeo. The piece, "What do all those ribbons mean?" grabbed me immediately. As a former 4-Her, I am very familiar with the purple, blue, red and white satin ribbons used in judging food, clothing, animal, gardening, crop, photography and other exhibits.

But I did learn the evaluation is based on a "standard" rather than a comparison of one exhibit to another. In other words, in teacher lingo, no grading "on the curve." As the article explained:

"Exhibits that earn purple ribbons are outstanding on all standards with little, if any, room for improvement. The blue means it exceeds the minimum standard, but may have minor flaws that could be improved. A red ribbon means the project meets all the minimum standards but may have visible signs of needed improvements. A white ribbon means the exhibit failed to meet minimum standards."

I began to wonder whether this system had been used those many years ago when I was involved. So I pulled out my 50-year-old green Kansas 4-H Club Record book and a scrapbook stuffed with ribbons from nine years of county and state fairs. Sister Gaila found her 4-H book and ribbons, too. We laughed when we compared them. While I had carefully taped my ribbons onto scrapbook pages with labels indicating the years and what the ribbons were for, Gaila had just shoved all of hers into an envelope.

I checked out my ribbons and judges' comments from 1969, when I was 15. During that summer, I had participated in both the Achievement Fair in Arkansas City and the Cowley County Fair in Winfield. I had entered a pantdress, a skirt and blouse, a refinished organ stool, a bulletin board, white yeast bread and white yeast rolls in both fairs.

I was amazed to see that judges from both fairs agreed on the ratings for all my exhibits except one.

The pantdress won blue ribbons at both fairs, with both judges commenting that the stitching on the zipper could have been better. The skirt and blouse received reds, with the two judges mentioning that the hem stitches were much too close and that I should have used pinking shears to trim the sleeve seams. The organ stool received two blues, with one judge remarking that it was a "very attractive refinished stool." The bulletin board got two reds, with the judges agreeing that nail holes on the frame should have been filled before it was finished. And the white yeast bread earned two blues. So it seemed to me that the judges had been using a standard checklist to judge my entries.

But the judges didn't agree on the yeast rolls. One judge gave them a blue ribbon with a sticker - "selected for state fair exhibit" - adhered to it. The other gave them a red. I'm not sure what the difference was between the two batches, but at the time I was probably puzzled by the different ratings.

Now, though, I realize that any number of things could have made the difference. Perhaps I beat the yeast mixture too long in the "red" batch. Or maybe it was a humid day, which can affect how the bread rises.

If I were a judge and had to grade the quality of the ribbons received, they wouldn't receive purples. The colors have shifted so much that the purples and blues are almost indistinguishable.

But now I have a very different dilemma: what do I do with all those ribbons? I suggested throwing them out, but husband Art said the girls might get a kick out of looking at them one day. He said they would be amazed to discover I received blues on a pantdress when he doubted either of them had ever seen a needle in my hand.

For that comment, I gave him a white ribbon!

But that doesn't solve the basic problem. I guess I could just leave them on the disintegrating scrapbook pages - or I could scan the pages and then throw the scrapbook away. Maybe I could select just a few ribbons and put them in a shadow box frame - or perhaps stuff them in an envelope as Gaila did.

In the end, I decided Gaila's system should receive the purple. It takes up less room - and that's the standard I want to follow!

Sister Gaila, right, and I look through our old 4-H ribbons.

Comments? [email protected].
Earlier columns from 2012 may be found at: 2012 Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home