Sanders: 4-H judging
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. Home ec is now called family and consumer sciences.
My judging took me to Newcastle and Lusk, Wyo., Gordon, and Chadron, Neb., and several 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 whose members 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.
Although it was a guideline I’d never heard of, another judge told a young 4-Her exactly how many chocolate chips were necessary for a proper chocolate chip cookie. It was news to me. I still wonder how she came to the conclusion.
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, the color, apparent firmness (the peaches hadn’t disintegrated into strings) and headspace. 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, Wyo. 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.
Fashion revue is where the 4-Her sews or selects and purchases a garment and accessories and then models the outfits before a team of judges who look at the fit, fashion and how artfully the sewing was done. In the case of the selected outfit, the quality is considered. For all classes the 4-Her fills out a small booklet that tells how much was spent. Shopping for fabric or quality items on sale is part of the learning curve. After judging several of the same entrants for successive years it was fun to see how the seamstresses 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 are also seeking judges. If you have an area of expertise, please call your county extension agent office to see if your skills can be used. You’ll meet kids who are the cream of the crop. ❖