Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 8-9-10
Long after my 4-H days were over I judged demonstration days, special foods contests, dress revues and a myriad of project areas. Armed with degrees in home economics and French, the home ec came in handy while judging.
My judging took me to Newcastle and Lusk Wyo., Gordon and Chadron, Neb., and three counties in South Dakota. The most challenging was judging foods. Not because they were so exquisite but let me say that after tasting 25 variations of chocolate chip cookies, a pickle looked mighty good! Of course only a tiny taste of any product was needed and larger amounts would have rendered the judge unable to continue after a short time. Outstanding in my memory is a beginning baking group who each made the same recipe of snickerdoodles out of the 4-H foods manual. Now you would think there would be consistency among the results, but no. I don’t know how, but they ranged from delicious and attractive to wondering of what substances they really were made of.
Although it was a guideline I’d never heard of another judge telling a young 4-Her exactly how many chocolate chips were necessary for a proper chocolate chip cookie. It was news to me. Maybe she had good reason for her pronouncement.
Rules as to what had to be tasted varied by county. In some places judges were required to open every canning jar and taste the contents. Others allowed us to judge by visual appearance only. We looked, of course, to make sure the jar was sealed, for color, apparent firmness (the peaches hadn’t disintegrated into strings) and head space. My most memorable canned item was a hot sauce aptly named “Hell In a Bottle” which was entered at the Weston County Fair in Newcastle. I still remember that the name was fitting. Fortunately the volunteer judging assistant was from that county and she knew what was coming. She had a nice piece of bread and a glass of iced tea standing by for me.
Dress revues are where the 4-Her sews a garment and then models it before a team of judges who look at fit, fashion and how artfully the sewing was done. After judging several of the same entrants for successive years it was fun to see how they and their skills matured.
One year I judged clothing at the South Dakota State Fair. Surprisingly, making the decisions weren’t as difficult as I had imagined at the state level. The exhibit quality was just as clear cut as on the county level. The low and high ends of the group were easy to determine and the nitpicking went on in the middle level entries.
Counties seem to always be seeking judges. If you have an area of expertise, call your county extension agent to see if your skills can be used. You’ll meet kids who are the cream of the crop.
Peggy is gearing up to coach her five grandkids when they join 4-H in the future. Her Internet latchstring is out at Peggy@PeggySanders.com.