For the most part, I really enjoy judging. It's a rare treat to see such a wide variety of projects up close. It's fun to be able to touch everything and really inspect it, which is something a fairgoer can't do. It's inspiring to see the creativity and the talent. I always leave with so many ideas and new things I want to try. love being the one to award prizes to the best of the best.
Overall, judging is great. But it is also difficult and exhausting. I judge hundreds of items. I take my time and give every project my full attention. My hand gets cramped after writing down so many comments and my brain gets tired of thinking of kind and/or polite ways to tell people what is wrong with their stuff and ways they could improve. Speaking of which, I have some things to add to last year's letter of things I wish I could say to fair entrants.
Thank you so much for submitting your project(s) to the county fair! I appreciate that so many of you took the time to consider my comments from last year and actually addressed the items I mentioned in my comments. I put a lot of time and effort into writing them, so it is very gratifying that some of you follow them. Overall, I felt that this year's entries were of a higher caliber than last year's, particularly since 90% of you took the time to remove visible adhesive and/or glue gun strings from your project.
However, I must address those of you who chose to ignore my suggestions. I'm a bit confused. I assume you want to win, right? Otherwise you wouldn't have paid an entry fee and gone to the trouble of driving your project to the fair and standing in line on the delivery day, right? If you'd spent the five minutes you stood in line removing glue gun strings, your project could have placed higher. Let me put this to you bluntly: if you ignore the judging criteria (which are printed on the very form you used to enter), you are not going to win. It's really that simple.
I strongly recommend that each of you read the letter I wrote for you last year. It's full of helpful suggestions, like taking the time remove the pounds of pet hair that might be clinging to your project. That's a pretty big pet peeve of mine, as of other judges as well. If you turn in a project that is sticky, covered in pet (or human) hair, and/or dropping sequins each time I breathe, you are probably not going to win. And if you do place, you probably would have placed higher if you'd just taken the extra few minutes and followed my suggestions.
I've been judging for many years, but this year one of you surprised me with something I'd never experienced before. As I was looking through some lovely latch-hook rugs, embellished pillows, and other crafty items, I felt a bite on the back of my hand. Then another. Then another. Fleas. One of you submitted an item that had fleas.... fleas that bit your judge. I can't believe I have to say this, but please do not submit craft items that contain living parasites. (For that matter, please don't include dead parasites either.)
In general, my biggest suggestion to all of you is simply to read the rules and judging criteria. And if you don't understand them, call or email the helpful fair staff before delivering your items. Notice that I said 'before.' Remember that five minute line you stood in to deliver your project? No one will like you if you save all your questions for delivery time and make the people behind you stand in line for two hours. Contact the fair staff days, weeks or even months ahead to ask your questions. This makes their job easier, it makes my job easier, and it gives you a much better chance of winning.
Thanks and I can't wait to see next year's entries!