County fair season will soon be upon us here in Southern California and other places and that means entering various contests and exhibits in addition to the usual farm animals. I’ve entered and shown in many different types of exhibits and the San Diego County Fair and have checked into the rules and regulations for many other counties’ fairs over the years. Here are some ideas and tips on entering a contest or exhibit in your county fair outside of the farm animals exhibits.
Prepare early: Most county fairs begin taking applications for entries way before the time the fair actually starts. Check your fair’s website or put yourself on their mailing list to find out when they start taking entries. Different departments take entries at different times. If you miss the deadlines, don’t despair. Sometimes fairs have special one day only contest where you can still enter that pie, knitting or painting.
Read the entry instructions carefully: And, follow them to the letter. Many fairs, such as those in counties with large populations, get more entries than they need or desire. Therefore, they can be picky and disqualify entries for the slightest deviation from their requirements. This is especially true for the art and photography exhibits that have strict requirements. Some fairs restrict entries to only people who live in the county the fair is running in at that time.
Pay attention to the dates: This goes hand and hand with reading the instructions carefully. Most contests have strict entry and delivery dates that are very narrow and often on weekdays. Make sure you are able to deliver or pick up your entries on those dates. Most fairs will destroy entries not picked up on those pick-up dates.
All entries should be family friendly: Be sure anything you enter the fair is family friendly. Some fairs restrict nude artwork and entries titled with explicit language. They may also reject works that are potentially controversial.
Enter your best work and be prepared for rejection: Be prepared that, despite your hard work, the work may be rejected. Reasons for rejections could range from not following entry instructions, technical flaws, too many other works in the same subject or style or using the same pattern or recipe. It could also be a matter of taste for the judges. Most of the time, you will not get your entry fees back.
One thing I like at my county fair is that the recipes in the Home and Hobby Division are entered into a cookbook that can be purchased. You can also shop for art, too, though all sales have to take place offsite. Other fairs may do something similar. In all, entering your work into the fair should be fun.
Here are some links to local county fairs in Southern California. Check with your county for their specific websites or rules:
San Diego County Fair
Orange County Fair
Los Angeles County Fair
The Riverside County Fair/National Date Festival has already been held for 2014.