One local textile artist group offering a cash prize refused to give the prize in the department they intended because they were "disappointed in the quality" of the items entered. Even going so far as to be disappointed in how the items were "hanging" or "displayed." Get real! The items are hung and displayed at the fair by someone other than the crafter who enters it.
I've heard comments about how some items looked unfinished or how the items were made crooked or how the items didn't meet the viewer's idea of a craft.
Oh for heaven's sake.... What's next? A juried fair?
The fair is not a juried competition show for world renowned craftsmen..... it's supposed to have the work of amatures and handicapped persons as well as skilled paid craftsmen. The state fair is for everyone! Including those who make crooked, unfinished, and off color items. The fair is supposed to be the place where those who can't possibly be juried into a high end art contest can still display their crafts.
The fair is a place where absolutely everyone can put their "hobbies" out there for the world to see. The fair is a chance to express personal artistic expression and growth. It's the place where anyone can see their hobby item displayed in the public; puff out their chest; and say "Look what I did." A way to feel proud of an accomplishment whether its the very first one made or the 10,000th one made. Whether it meets the viewer's idea of perfectly made or not.
Seeing a ribbon on your craft is a great thrill but people shouldn't be entering the fair for that reason exclusively. The fair is the place where crafters can showcase their own personal artistic expression and see how it measures up against others doing the same craft. After all... there can be only one "best of show" in any department. The opinion of the judges at the Kentucky state fair may not be the same as the opinion of the judges at a different fair.
I also heard comments like..... "If so and so keeps entering then I won't enter anymore because I can't compete with her or him. She or he is a professional and should be required to enter a professional class." I also heard a comment.... "So and so has bought much better and newer craft equipment... they shouldn't be allowed to enter." In my opinion everyone entering a craft at the fair has an equal chance at winning a ribbon. One item.... one chance.
I mean really.... think about it.... saying you will not enter the fair because someone else is really good at their craft is almost like hearing all the olympic swimmers were refusing to enter the olympics because Phelps was going to be competing and is the record holder. Who would there be to strive and work hard to "be better than" if a really good crafter doesn't enter the fair?
Each craft department has set up certain criteria guidelines for their craft. By entering a craft item into the fair; the entrant has agreed to abide by the criteria and guidelines set up by that department. The one who comes closest to meeting all the criteria and guidelines is the one who should win. An unpaid crafter can meet the qualifications just as well as a crafter who gets paid for their work. In fact, the unpaid crafter may have a better chance at winning because the paid crafter is often so busy earning a living that they don't have the available time needed for making something to enter in the fair.
By the same reasoning, no judge should be allowed to not give a ribbon or prize simply because they feel the crafts entered are of lesser quality than they are normally used to judging. Ribbons and prizes ought be given to the actual crafts entered.... not given based on what someone believes should be entered. All ribbons and prizes should be awarded... and find a home with a crafter.... not tossed away after the fair because of an opinion.
If someone decides to enter a craft in the fair in a particular department they are agreeing to "play by the rules" of that department. The crafter who does the best job at following those rules is the one who should get the ribbons and the prizes. By the same token; entrants are also expecting the judges and prize givers to abide by their own "rules". The rules and prizes shouldn't be changed in the middle of the game based on one or two people's idea of what should be entered.
Even with rules and guidelines for a particular craft the judging is still subjective. The judges will recognize and reward technical skills for a craft but design and artistry are influenced by the preference of the judge. What one judge believes to be "best of show" may be totally different than what you believe or your neighbor or the judge from last year or the judge to be hired for next year. Don't take not getting a ribbon or a prize to heart. It isn't a reflection of your skills.... its an opinion of the judge.
So if you have entered an item in the fair and didn't win a ribbon or prize.... go ahead and strut you stuff... stand proud and have your picture taken next to your craft item... recognize your entry for what it really is.... an item you have made with your own hands and are very proud to display it for others to see. Study the winners. See what it was that got them a ribbon. Then work extra hard for an entry next year that may win you that ribbon or prize you want so much to win.
If you casually stand next to the item you made and listen to the comments made by viewers; be prepared to hear the bad comments as well as the good. Just remember that each viewer will have their own opinion on the craft. Each viewer has made themself a judge... for the moment... while looking at your craft. Some viewers will know the difficulty of the technical skills required to make your craft while others won't have a clue and will simply see it as a craft that doesn't interest them.
That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.