Rewards go beyond winning at state fair

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By Deanna Godman

Many Spencer County residents participated in the Kentucky State Fair this year by entering some of the many competitions available.

Jean Johnson, president of the Patchworkers Quilt Guild, has been entering quilts in the Kentucky State Fair since she started quilting more than twenty-five years ago. A friend challenged her to enter quilts in the fair, so she did.

Johnson credited the critique sheets that she received from the fair for helping her learn to quilt. She enjoyed getting the critiques to see what she did wrong with her quilts because she did not have a quilt club to help her when she got started. She still enjoys seeing the critiques, although she knows better now what they will say.

“It’s fun to me to go to the State Fair and see the quilts. I get ideas for my own,” said Johnson. “We look at other people’s quilts and we get ideas about what we want to do.”

It is a practical matter for her to enter her quilts in the fair. “If no one entered quilts, there wouldn’t be any to enjoy,” said Johnson.

This year, Johnson entered two quilts, both gifts for her granddaughters. Her quilts did not win ribbons this year, but last year she got a blue ribbon for one of her quilts. She also won the award for the execution of the best quilting stitch. While Johnson pieces her quilts with the sewing machine, she does all of her quilting by hand. That was the second time she won the prize for best quilting stitch and was even more surprised to win than the first time.

Janie Gordon, a member of the Patchworker Quilt Guild who lives in Mt. Washington, entered the state fair for the first time this year due to the encouragement of the guild members. “Jean Johnson, Vicki Rego and Pat Douglas, especially, encouraged me to enter. I always wanted to, but never had the courage.”

Gordon won third place in the senior quilt category for hand or machine quilting and piecing for her quilt based on the Paintbox Stars pattern. She also entered an apron and a set of potholders for which she won honorable mention.

“Even if I didn’t get anything, I just loved seeing it hanging up among other people’s quilts. It’s just a wonderful feeling seeing something I made hanging at the Kentucky State Fair,” said Gordon.

Gordon went to the fair on the morning of opening day because she could not wait to see her quilt hanging up at the fair. “It was almost like Christmas morning. I just couldn’t wait. I just wanted to see it hanging up and the ribbon was the icing on the cake. I was tickled,” said Gordon.

Pat Douglas entered a needlepoint Christmas stocking and some needlepoint ornaments. She received third place for her stocking. This is the third time Douglas has entered the state fair. She previously won first place for a needlepoint rug and won second place for another item.

Douglas does not enter the fair every year, but thought she had something to show off this year.

Vicki Rego, a member of the Thread and Thimble sewing club and Patchworkers Quilt Guild, has entered the state fair for nearly ten years. She started entering her quilts because each time she finished one, her husband would insist that it was fair worthy. Rego finished the quilt that she entered this year in the spring of 2009 and her husband particularly liked it. Her husband passed away a few months later, so it was especially poignant for Rego to enter her quilt in the fair this year.

“This one’s especially comforting to me,” said Rego, who won third place in her category this year.

It is important to be confident when entering the fair. “I was real proud of my Christmas stocking. It probably took three years to finish. I used lots of different techniques,” said Douglas, president of Thread and Thimble.

Rego suggested that it is easy to think that one’s own work is not fair quality, but she has learned from competing to give herself credit.

Douglas, who is co-chair for the Spencer County Fair needlework and craft category, said that she keeps in mind that the fair is a competition with subjective judging. “It’s very, very competitive. It’s one person’s opinion.”

Johnson entered the fair for years before she won a ribbon, but did not get discouraged.

“It never offends me if I don’t win,” said Johnson. “I enter the fair for fun.”