Farmers, gardeners and artisans have worked hard all year to rear their crops and perfect their crafts. Now is the time to reap the benefits by entering the best of the best in the upcoming Franklin County Agricultural Fair competitive exhibits.

The ag fair features a variety of contests for all ages. There are youth coloring contests, photo contests, a barn quilt design competition and a growing list of competitive exhibits. This year, The Franklin News-Post is also partnering with the Virginia Cooperative Extension office to sponsor four new categories: largest watermelon, largest pumpkin, largest gourd and best in show for baked goods.

Carol Haynes, extension agent for VCE, said she is looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries. “I am so excited, it’s almost like Christmas instead of the fall fair,” she said.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are just one of the nearly 300 categories spread out across three divisions. Division I is classified for agricultural products and includes categories for fresh fruits and vegetables and miscellaneous agricultural products such as eggs, figs and honey in comb, among others.

Division II is for homemaking goods and includes categories for canned fruits, canned vegetables and meats, pickles and relishes, breads, cakes, cookies and pies, live flowers and plants and quilts.

Division III includes miscellaneous items such as jewelry, candles, soap, bird feeders, pottery and leatherwork, as well as categories for crocheting, knitting, textiles and children’s artwork.

Rachel Bayer, owner of The Growing Place in Wirtz, has entered the competitive exhibits all six years.

“It is just a lot of fun to figure out what you are going to take and to see what everyone else has done,” Bayer said.

She said the first year she entered mostly canned goods, but has expanded her entries to include plants and cross-stitched items as well. She said she has a friend who makes salsa, and each year the two have a friendly competition as to who will fare better. Bayer won first place for her salsa the first year she entered, but as the ag fair has grown, so have the competitive entries.

Haynes said the first year there were approximately 100 items entered in the competitive exhibits, but grew to 470 last year.

“We want it to keep growing; we would love to see double that amount,” Haynes said. “We would love to see more entries from children as well.”

Bayer added, “The more people who enter the more fun it is.” She said she will compete this year but she has not yet decided what she will be taking.

“Last year, I entered the pie contest for the first time,” Bayer said. “I had to bake the crust from scratch, so I practiced by baking a pie each month to perfect it. It’s fun to work toward a goal.”

Another blue ribbon winner, Amy Worely, owner of The Claiborne House in Rocky Mount, won for best molasses cookie last year, and displays her ribbon proudly.

“It’s a conversation starter,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be about competition either. It is a great way to showcase our local talent.”

Worely said she baked a lot of cookies and entered six of her molasses cookies.

“I baked a lot of them because I thought they would look for consistency and I picked out six of my best cookies and looked at color and size,” Worely said. “I was surprisingly nervous to see how I did.”

She explained that entrants must attend the fair to see how they placed. The entries are displayed under a tent that will be across from the pavilion this year.

Entries will be accepted on Monday, Sept. 16 from 2 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon at Franklin County Recreation Park.

There is no fee to enter. Participants are allowed to submit multiple entries in a category but only one entry per class. For rules, entry forms and a complete list of categories and classes, visit fcagfair.com.

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