Second Premium or My Road to the State Fair

So, the Minnesota State Fair officially ended this week. It is a big deal around here, 1,788,512 people passed through its gates. I’ve never lived anywhere else where the fair was such a big deal. People line up to be the first person in on the first day like it’s a rock concert.
A sea of people
One of my life list items has been to enter something in the fair and just have it displayed. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but the creative activities section of the fair received over 6,700 entries into their competitions this year. So, just getting yours chosen for display is pretty darn cool. I decided to enter the Mittens: Colorwork category, one of three mitten categories.
Road to the State Fair - 3 Weeks to Go
For weeks I worked on my project. I decided I didn’t want to submit anything done from someone else’s pattern (which is actually perfectly acceptable to the fair judges), so I created my own design as well. I knew the judges would be looking at my gauge and finishing, as well as the over-all look of the mittens. I can’t tell you how many times I ripped these babies back!
State Fair Mittens
I finished my mittens just days before they were due and did lots of careful blocking. Of course, on my way to the fairgrounds to drop them off, I noticed two mistakes in the colorwork pattern on one of the mittens. My heart dropped, but it was too late to do anything now. They were going into the hands of the judges.

The opening day of the fair the winners were announced. I nervously opened the page of the fair website, scrolling through all the categories to find mine. There is was, my name! I had won a ribbon in my first fair!
My first State Fair Ribbon
I was thrilled. I had of course hoped to win one, but never wanted to get my hopes up.
Then, I had to see what had beaten me for the blue ribbon.
Minnesota State Fair 2012
Look at the tiny gauge! These mittens not only won in my category, but they won the Knitters’ Guild Award for best mittens in any category. Looks like I have a goal for next year.

Some random thoughts on entering the State Fair (these are based on the Minnesota State Fair, yours might have different rules).

  • The Creative Activities Premium Book comes out online in May. Giving you plenty of time to choose a category, or categories, to enter.
  • Make sure to read the rules carefully. Some categories are very specific about what can and can’t be entered.
  • The project doesn’t have to be current. Some categories say it must be made in the last year while other say the last three years.
  • You can only enter one project per category, so pick your best.
  • You can pre-register online which makes checking your project in really fast. Don’t worry if you register for a category and end up not entering a project.
  • Make sure to check the special categories. Some special prizes like First Time Entry or All Wool may require you to note something special on your registration.
  • You won’t get rich from it. I won $4 for my second place. The first place winner received $6. The bigger prizes in the handcraft areas are in the special prizes donated by local stores or Guilds. Those are typically $25 gift certificates or memberships. (The big money is in the cooking contests sponsored by companies.)
  • The judges will give you a critique of your project when you pick it up. I’m hoping they’ll tell me what to do to win next year (I’m guessing it’ll be improve my gauge.)

So, I’m already thinking which categories to enter next year, yes categories. I want one of those big fancy blue ribbons now.


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10 Comments to Second Premium or My Road to the State Fair
    • Manisha
    • Well, I for one knew you would come home with a ribbon. Congrats! Although I didn’t get to the Fair this year, I sent many of my friends to see your mittens. You should have seen all the text pics I got to confirm that those were indeed yours. They are lovely. I searched and searched the photo and can’t see those mistakes. Good job!

    • Cindy deRosier
    • Congratulations! Your mittens are gorgeous! A well-deserved second place.

      Thank you for including the list of thoughts about entering in the fair. The rules and guidelines are indeed very different from fair to fair. It is very interesting to learn more about how other fairs operate. I’ve worked at several county fairs and the California State Fair, including judging (papercrafts, arts & crafts, tablesettings, and baked goods, not anything involving knitting!). I wish more people would take a chance and enter their items. It really is a lot of fun.

      Good luck next year!!

    • Megan
    • Congratulations!

      As a professional 4-H’er, I’m always excited to see people enter open class exhibits. For fairgoers, it showcases the talents of the county/state of the fair. These are the types of exhibits fairgoers want to see … traditional arts done well!

      After my father-in-law entered open class exhibits at our local county fair, he was excited to realize his premiums did account for about the same amount he paid in property taxes to support the fair.

      Your tips were spot-on for registering. One of the things that saddens me is that, in many classes, there aren’t any exhibits. A recon mission to identify areas where the competition isn’t as strong might boost confidence for planning entries for the next year.

      Another great way to learn about what judges look for is to volunteer to help with judging. In addition to the judge, fairs need people to attach ribbons, write comments, organize and display exhibits, check-in entries, and more!

      Good luck next year!

    • DrRuss
    • Congrats. I knew that I would know a ribbon winner at some point in my life. I might have to check out to see if NY has a state fair. I knew it was big in Texas but never went. I have to check to see if there are any paper categories–LOL. Once again, well deserved.

    • Seanna Lea
    • Yup, looking at the difference between your two mittens, I’m sure that gauge is part of that. I would happily knit mittens at 10 spi or higher!

      My nearest fair that I know of is on the other side of the state. It is not really an easy trip for carless me to make!

    • Jusa
    • Way to go!!!! Love that flying pig design. Very clever. $4?? Odd amount, but I guess that buys you some more yarn, or needles or something.

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