Thursday morning, area business people arrived early at the Barton County Fair for the annual business Appreciation Breakfast a long-standing tradition that has been coupled with the weekly Chamber Coffee. Sausage, pancakes and juice were provided courtesy of the Dick Dougherty family and friends, and door prizes were provided by the Barton County 4-H Clubs and presented by club ambassadors.
Meanwhile, it was time for floriculture, horticulture and open foods check in. Within a short while, Expo II was filled with flowers, vegetables, nature’s masterpieces.
Barton County Master Gardeners and Horticulture Superintendent Wayne DeWerf and family were on hand for intake of floriculture and horticulture entries, identifying and sorting hundreds of colorful blooms by category and laying out tables of produce harvested from local gardens.
“Considering that we’ve had the spring and early summer that we’ve had, it’s remarkable that we see this much produce out,” DeWerf said. “It’s nice to be able to add tables instead of take away tables.”
Tomatoes were virtually absent from entries, save for a few cherry tomatoes and unripe full-size fruits.
“When it’s cools, tomatoes have a tendency not to grow very much,” he said. They grow best when temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s Fahrenheit. “We’re just now getting to those temperatures where they will flourish.”
Barton County typically has had the first fair in the state. This year, Edwards County was first, and DeWerf judged there last week. Maturation and quality wise, Barton County is further ahead, he said.
Judging both 4-H and Open Class horticulture and floriculture this year was Pallace Messer, horticulture agent for the Golden Prairie Extension District, which includes Trego, Gove and Logan counties. Part way through her second year working with 4-H clubs and judging fairs, she continues to seek out opportunities and met with Barton County 4-H participants early in the afternoon Thursday to go over entries and share insights into what makes an award-winning entry.
K-State has guidelines for each class. Each project is judged individually. Uniformity and cleanliness are key, she said, though some categories, such as onions, she encourages entrants not to go too far.
“Anyone can make an onion look pretty by peeling off the bad parts,” she said. “I like to see some of the wrapping left in place.”
Messer encouraged entrants rather to carefully remove dirt, and present their entries in such a way it was clear they didn’t simply bring it straight from the field.
With floral and herb entries, specifications were a little trickier. Making sure water is clean, leaves aren’t submerged (that can encourage bacteria and reduce the amount of water stems can take up, leading to early wilt) and taking care not to cut stems too short were additional points that can mean the difference between placing or not, she said.
This year, individual consultations between judge and 4-Her weren’t offered. In the interest of saving time, an overall group consultation was provided.