Most of us will never win a Pulitzer Prize, the lottery or the World Tennis Championship. Most of us are ordinary folks who have some strengths, a lot of weaknesses and just feel grateful if we can get out of bed in the morning.
However, there is a time in every person’s life when he or she can be a champion. And that is why we have county fairs.
People who are not in the habit of competing in a NASCAR race could do pretty well in the pickle competition at the county fair. Or they may enter their favorite marigold, which is a winner in their eyes. Or perhaps they have sewn a nice potholder during the year, knitted some socks or canned some jelly. It is time to dig those hidden talents out of the garden or pantry and head down to your local county fair and just see how you match up against all those other would-be champions in the open class contests.
I myself have been a regular open class county fair exhibitor for many years. I have entered zucchini, tomatoes, rhubarb, flowers of all types and bread; oh yes, let me tell you about my bread.
And I have on occasion won a few ribbons. I have a rack in my bathroom on which I have hung many of those ribbons. It is a good place to sit and meditate on those days when I’m feeling rather punky and wondering if I have ever done any good at all in my life.
I am proud of my fair ribbons, because they represent some of my better efforts at gardening and cooking, two of my favorite hobbies. Although, I must admit, the only best of show ribbon I ever won was for my rhubarb, and when I think about it, rhubarb grows like a weed without any help from me, which makes me wonder: Is my best accomplishment something that just grew by accident? No matter. A ribbon is a ribbon, and a best of show ribbon is nothing to sniff about.
But getting back to my bread. I learned to bake bread when I was about 6 years old, helping Auntie Alma cook for our hay crews. Auntie Alma’s theme for cooking for big crews was: No matter how little or much you have of anything else, make sure you always prepare enough potatoes and gravy and bread, and that will keep everyone happy.
I have been baking bread ever since. My speciality is sourdough, and my current starter is about 18 years old (I unfortunately murdered a much older starter a friend gave me in the 1980s — something I still regret).
And for several years I won blue ribbons and the Idaho County Wheat Growers award at the Idaho County Fair for my sourdough bread.
Then, like a dummy, I bragged about it in this column. Which only served to inspire other bread bakers to compete against me. Which upped the stakes and caused me to lose out to other great bread bakers.
This year I stayed mum — until the fair was over, which it was a couple weeks ago, after I won another blue ribbon and the Idaho County Wheat Growers award.
And that leads me to the moral of this story: Get out there and help make your county fair great. But choose your battles.
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.