Every year, hundreds of Virginians enter the competitions for small cash prizes and ribbons.
Ten-time winner Traci Garland said “it’s pretty awesome” to work “I’m a State Fair blue-ribbon winner” into conversations. She has competed since 2016. Her first blue ribbon was for a green tomato and apple chutney and she made with her then four-year-old daughter. Her daughter later entered the competition herself, and won a red ribbon for her carrot cake.
State fair arts and crafts, culinary and horticulture competitions are open to all – artists, bakers, crafters, gardeners, plant experts, row crop farmers and more. There are categories for both adults and youth.
“Some people think you have to win at a county fair before you can compete at the state fair, but that’s a misnomer,” said Sarah Jane Thomsen, the fair’s manager of agriculture education and strategic programming partnerships.
And participants in the competitions contribute to the fair’s mission of educating the public about agriculture and drawing connections to where fairgoers’ food is grown.
“A lot of people aren’t exposed to crops and plants like those displayed in the horticulture tent,” shared Lynwood Broaddus, a Caroline County farmer and frequent horticulture competitor. “But people are really interested in where their food comes from, and if they can see the commodities in person, it helps them make a connection.”
On Broaddus’ Spring Hill Farms, the family grows wheat, rye and barley. For the past few years, they have entered samples of those crops in the horticulture competitions. They also enter plants and vegetables from their backyard garden. To date, they have received more than 100 ribbons, with a third of them blue.
The State Fair of Virginia is held each fall at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.
Competition guides with entry deadlines, registration instructions and category descriptions for culinary and creative arts and horticulture entries are online at StateFairVa.org.