Seeds of success: Garden vegetables awarded ribbons at state fair

Derby Walker, center, and Garland Saville, left, judge the vegetables in the Dover Building at the Delaware State Fair on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Derby Walker, center, and Garland Saville, left, judge the vegetables in the Dover Building at the Delaware State Fair on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

HARRINGTON –– After careful deliberation Thursday afternoon, ribbons for first through fourth place were awarded to 67 different varieties of garden vegetables at the Delaware State Fair.

“If it’s something you can grow it in a garden, it’s probably going to be somewhere in this competition,” said Richard Bennett, superintendent of the Fair’s garden vegetable department.

Hundreds of entrants are vying for the coveted blue ribbon in 114 vegetable categories. The primary rules entrants must follow are they can only enter one item per category and the entry must be grown in a garden, so that excludes vegetables grown on a commercial farm.

Sharon Cohee judges horticulture in the Dover Building on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Sharon Cohee judges horticulture in the Dover Building on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Gardeners who believed their produce deserved a shot at the blue ribbon signed up online in April and June and had their entry laid out for the judges Thursday morning.

The veggies were judged by six experienced judges from an agricultural background –– either having a degree in an agricultural field or having grown up on or operated a farm.

“Firstly we check to make sure the entrant has followed the guidelines that are set for each category and from there we look for the quality of the vegetable and uniformity,” said Jay Windsor, a garden vegetable judge of 30 years.

The six judges slowly paced around the Dover Building, clipboards in hand while evaluating and handling the veggies.

Entrants will have until next Tuesday to stop by and see how their vegetables fared.

“There’s a total of 114 categories all together so next Wednesday we’ll bring out categories 68 to 114 and go through the whole display and judging process all over again,” Mr. Bennett said.

And the vegetables are expected to still be in tip-top shape until the switch next Wednesday thanks to the air conditioned Dover Building.

Mr. Bennett said that until eight years ago, the vegetable judging was held in a building without AC and the veggies and would spoil before the swap halfway through the fair.

There haven’t always been so many categories and some of the longest serving judges have seen their fair share of new entries.

“There are always new vegetables being added,” Mr. Windsor said. “There used to only be yellow squash and green zucchini and only one type of pepper but now there are a bunch of new varieties and some hybrid varieties too.”

The current veggies are on display in the Dover Building until Tuesday and will be swapped out for the second round of judging Wednesday morning.

“Everything’s going to be judged and in place by Thursday because we want the displays to look good for when the governor comes to the fair,” Mr. Bennett said.

Other judged items on display in the Dover Building include arts and crafts like needle point and quilts, floral arrangements, and culinary entries like jams and jellies.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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