…two of them might be a bit too much, but that didn’t stop me from going to two of them anyway: Wisconsin and Minnesota. Wisconsin holds their state fair about two weeks before Minnesota does, so attending both was feasible, if tiring. I went with my cousins to the Wisconsin State Fair. The cousins grew up on a farm, so not only did we see most of the animals, but they could say knowledgeable things about them. Me, I can tell cows apart from goats, and both of them apart from chickens, but that’s about as sophisticated as I get. When I’m at the Minnesota State Fair, I take care of all my animal-watching in one fell swoop with the Miracle of Life Barn. They keep at least one of several kinds of animals there, and if you’re lucky, you can see them giving birth. I usually just see the baby animals afterwards, but the cute factor makes up for missing the births themselves.
Now on the other hand, I do know my way around knitting and crochet competitions, and I wanted to see what people entered in Wisconsin. Pretty much the same kind of things we enter in Minnesota, of course. But they display them a bit differently. In Minnesota, the Creative Activities building is mostly organized by craft. Almost all adult handknitting is in a large case to the left of the main door as you come in, except for the blue-ribbon items, which are in a separate case. Sewing gets a case, weaving gets a case. Machine knitting and crochet share a case across from baby and child knitting. Afghans, knitted and crocheted, are displayed on special racks. Less popular crafts with fewer entries are slipped in here and there. There are smaller cases in the building with assorted items from different crafts that share a theme or a color or something (which is one way to display those less popular crafts). In turn, just as the different crafts are mostly separated, all the needlework and handcrafts are kept apart from canning and baking, which are in a different section of the building.
Things are a bit different in Wisconsin. The equivalent of Creative Activities is the Horticulture, Craft & Culinary Pavilion. Wisconsin likes to mix entries together. A plate of prize-winning cookies will nestle happily next to a handknit sweater, with an embroidered piece looming behind them and a photograph perched off to the side. The building has more small cases than large, and it looks like each year they make up themes based on the entries they get and put one theme in each case, along with a sign telling you what the theme of the case is. It’s an interesting way to arrange the items, although it’s even more frustrating than the Creative Activities building if you want to compare and contrast, say, all the adult knitted cardigans. I enjoyed the visit, but I think I did a lot of back-and-forthing trying to see everything and keep it all together in my mind. Plus, while Minnesota does its level best to cram everything into the display cases, Wisconsin arranges entries on the tops of the cases as well.
Oh, and another key difference between the Horticulture, Craft & Culinary Pavilion and the Creative Activities building? The Pavilion is air-conditioned. This year, with Minnesota enduring a 90ºF/32ºC and higher heat wave during the fair, that sounds heavenly.
On a personal note, the Midnight Vineyard vest took fifth place in its category. It was even prominently displayed, right at the very front of the display case.