JAMESTOWN – If you’ve ever looked at the Open Class exhibits at the Stutsman County Fair, chances are you saw Gloria Jones’ name on some entries. And chances are there were probably ribbons with them as well.
Jones has been exhibiting at the Stutsman County Fair for more than 20 years, earning too many ribbons to keep track of.
“I’m a very competitive person and I like challenges, so that’s why (she enters),” Jones said.
But that’s not the only reason. It’s also important to support the fair, she said.
“It’s not about the ribbons and it’s not about the money,” she said. “I think it’s about the competition and I want to see our fair successful so, I mean, you have to contribute if you want to see the success. …”
The Open Class consists of the Ag and Home & Hobby divisions, offering numerous categories for children and adults to enter. Raquel Heinle, one of the superintendents of the Open Class, says overall, entries have declined slightly in recent years. That may be due in part to people being too busy to enter and people passing away who did enter, she said.
For those who do enter, the number of entries varies, she said.
“I suppose the average is about 10 things per person, some enter more, some only enter one thing,” she said.
Heinle agrees with Jones that the entries help make the fair successful.
“We do get a lot of people that are walking through (the Russ Melland building) and they take the time to look at all the stuff, so the more entries we have the more enjoyable I think it is for people coming to the fair,” Heinle said.
Jones grew up north of Cleveland and exhibited in 4-H at the Stutsman County Fair as a youth. She and her husband, Brian, who was a leader in 4-H, have four grown children who also participated in 4-H when they were younger.
For the family, the fair wasn’t as much about the carnival as it was about the exhibits, the animals, the Merchants building and seeing people you knew, she said.
When the Joneses’ kids began showing an interest not only in entering 4-H but the Open Class as well, that sparked an interest in Gloria. She had a large garden and figured, why not enter something?
And that’s when her interest in entering the Open Class began and grew. Jones said gradually she entered more things in Open Class and these days, it’s usually around 50 entries.
“It’s pretty much flowers, garden, canned goods and baked goods,” she said.
For canned goods, Jones enters different types of pickles and jellies. There are tomato entries, which can include tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and salsa. She’s entered pickled carrots, pickled peppers, beet pickles, apples and tomato-based vegetable soup too.
“Canning to me is becoming kind of a lost art,” Jones said. “It’s something that they used to do because they had to and not that many people can anymore or even know how to can because it is very time consuming.”
She said when she cans, she sets aside entries for the fair.
“You almost have to because not every jar is as beautiful as the one you want to exhibit,” she said.
Jones notes they only give a blue, a red and a white ribbon in the Open Class, and if there are only two entries in a category, it doesn’t mean a blue ribbon will be awarded. The prize is $4 for a blue ribbon (first), $3 for red (second) and $2 for white (third).
Jones said she gives away about 75 percent of what she cans to her children and friends and for baskets made up for fundraisers “because those go really good because people love canned goods.”
She said her biggest canned product is her pickles, which are made like others using water, vinegar and salt, and thinks it’s the water she uses that makes them so good.
“Because I go over to our farm next door and get the old well water because there’s something with the iron and stuff in them that makes the best pickles,” she said.
When it comes to baked goods, she’s exhibited coffee cake, candies and cookies. She said sometimes she enters breads, but they don’t do as well as other people’s entries.
“People have a touch with some things and other things they don’t,” she said.
She also enters flowers and garden produce based on what’s ready at her rural home at the time of the fair.
Open Class entries are accepted on Tuesday, June 28, the day before the fair officially opens, and that will be a busy day for Jones.
“There’s so much of it you can only do like the last couple of days,” she said. “Like my flowers, I pick that day. But I might walk around the yard” and see what to exhibit ahead of time. The garden produce is picked on Tuesday morning too.
Jones’ advice for people interested in entering the Open Class is to “read your book and follow the guidelines” so the entry isn’t disqualified. Enter the right number of flowers, for example. Look at the appearance of the entry. Polish canned jars and don’t use a rusty ring on them.
Heinle says viewing the Open Class entries is a way for people to recognize the talent in the community.
“People put a lot of pride into their work and take the time to work on the projects and then take the time also just to enter them,” she said. “Just to recognize that. And we’re always looking for people to enter too.”
She said people who have never entered the fair should consider trying it.
“I think it’s just a good tradition to keep going,” she said. “It’s just a nice tradition and I think it’s an important part of the fair.”
Jones said she enjoys the positive feedback from people that she gets when she enters items at the fair.
“I get a lot of nice compliments and you know, I think everybody likes to hear good things,” she said. “I used to have a gal at work that said, ‘I would just put your jars on my shelves for decoration. They’re so pretty.’”
Open Class – Agriculture and Home & Hobby
Entry day: 8-5 p.m. Tuesday, June 28
Where: Russ Melland building, Stutsman County Fairgrounds
Take-out time: 9-11 a.m., Sunday, July 3
Entries on public display: 3-10 p.m. Wednesday, June 29; 1-10 p.m. Thursday, June 30-Saturday, July 2
Entry information: https://bit.ly/3Nkt3du