The 'Rite of Fall'
With nearly 1,200 categories to review, expert judges spent the bulk of Monday wading through a literal smorgasbord of fruits, vegetables, drawings and handcrafted items before placing ribbons on the selected winners.
The Lee Regional Fair opens at 5 p.m. today — and will continue through Sunday — and interested persons can view the assortment of vegetables, fruits, quilts, blankets, sketches, canned foods, baked goods and other submissions and discover who and what was named the best in show. There were more than 2,200 entries submitted.
"All of the exhibits are judged based on an ideal standard for that category," said Bill Stone, 4-H Youth Development Agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County. "Winners will know how they did when the fair opens. We've had to keep folks out, and some have already tried to poke their head in to see how they did."
For some people, entering their items is the highlight of the fair and of the year, he said.
"In my opinion, it's the rite of fall," Stone said. "People know the fair is coming up, and some people have been preparing for six or eight months. People look forward to it each year."
First-, second- and third-place winners receive a cash prize, usually $6 for first place, and each blue ribbon earns an entry into a $500 drawing. But the real prize, according to agriculture exhibit volunteer Crystal Stubits, is the bragging rights.
"Winners find out when the fair opens, and there is always a lot of excitement," she said.
Plus, there are friendly rivalries between family members who may be competing against one another, added Glenn Stubits, another volunteer.
Donese Pulley, one of the volunteers who assisted the judges, said it was her third year volunteering with the fair, and she helped record judges' scores and place ribbons on the winners.
"It's always a lot of fun," she said.
Johnny Poindexter, who oversees the agricultural exhibits, said there are different categories for different age brackets, and children as young as 5 years old submitted items.
"The main reason [this is so popular] is it's a part of Lee County," Poindexter said, "a part of people's heritage."
The Lee Regional Fair is the largest event in the area, he said, and people should make it their goal to attend throughout the week.