Headline: "Open class’ some of the classiest
Or the sumptuously-glowing jar of canned peaches, the finely-sewn Western shirt, the lovingly pieced quilt, the fluffy, quilted pillow and the cute, embellished pet rock.
Those are just a few of the 100 or so artistic and inspired items local people without college degrees in fine art have crafted over the past 12 months and entered in the fair’s “open class competition for non-perishable goods – anything that will last on the shelf, the wall, the table or the bed.
It’s all about the Grand Champion awards given to the best entry in each category and symbolized by the purple ribbon attached after the judges have reviewed the entered wares and made their decision today.
But then again, even the blue and red ribbons, pinned to entries that didn’t quite meet the judge’s expectations, come with thoughtful and grateful notes from the judges spelling out pride for local artistry and the local folks’ creativity.
This year’s number of entries may be less than last year, says fair volunteer Norma Hurd, but the quality of local craftsmanship hasn’t gone down.
“It’s just amazing isn’t it?” Glenda Wentworth of the Eagle County Extension Office says with a sweeping gesture of the wares stacked, racked and displayed on tables throughout the Exhibit Hall at the Eagle County Fairgrounds Monday.
Though the trickle of open class competitors has slowed a bit on this sweltering afternoon, the fair volunteers experience no shortage of sometimes shyly offered up items. They expertly finger and fawn over them, then efficiently find a place for each in the endless list of categories designed to encourage, not discourage.
“I stayed up until 11 o’clock last night matting,” laughs a wide-awake-looking Brenda Kleinfelder, a local professional mixed-media photographer from Eagle, who is entering a series of six black-and-white photos she snapped of always-photogenic cowboys at last year’s rodeo.
Pressed into last-minute action by her husband, Kleinfelder says now she’s glad she did.
“He said “get going’ and I said “all right, I’ll go for it’,” she says with another excited laugh.
She’ll face stiff competition, too, judging from a table covered with picturesque photo-artistry from cute kids to colorful sunsets to whimsical wildflowers.
But that’s the point, she says.
“What’s good about the fair is that it is as good as the people that participate – and that’s beautiful,” she says, while putting the finishing touches on her entry form.
Lorie Everman of Gypsum, too, had second thoughts about entering – then changed her mind and showed up with a pair of knitted, bright-blue socks.
“I wasn’t going to come, because I thought they are not hand-made,” she says, explaining that the tiny and very regular stitches are the work of an antique, hand-cranked, circular sewing machine.
Everman, who learned how to knit from her British mother when she was “4 or 5” – and has won purple ribbons in the past for hand-knit sweaters, socks and mittens – discovered the circular-sock-machine culture recently on the Internet after having had an antique knitting machine “sitting around my house for 10 years.”
She bought the machine at Grammy’s Attic in Minturn a decade ago, “just because I thought it was cool,” she says. Recently, she adds, she located the Circular Knitting Society and learned how to use and maintain the machine.
Now she is hooked. The first sock took her two days – lightning speed by hand-knit standards – but slow for a machine-knit sock.
“It’s a lot more involved then it looks,” she says. “But it is so much fun.”
Everman is still talking about her infatuation with the antique circular knit machine – they were discontinued after a century of production in the 1970s – and not quite done signing in her socks when she is signed up to show off her special skill by Wentworth, who roams the tables, always on the look-out for special talents.
So come this Saturday, Everman will be hooking and cranking in public at the fair, a gig she gladly accepts, because “this society I joined is really looking to revive this old tradition and get people interested in it.”
Jeff Yarger, an Eagle self-employed handyman and mechanical wizard by day, hopes to win the judge’s favor with a bottle of “blended Cabernet sauvignon and merlot” fermented with local spring water he gets from a friend’s ranch near McCoy.
“Some year’s ago my wife gave me a home-brew beer kit, and that’s how it all started,” says the 25-year-plus Vail Valley resident. “Beer is actually harder, but I won with the regular Cabernet last year, so I thought I’d mix it up a little this year.”
If the bottle comes back with a purple ribbon, Yarger, who gives away his home-brewed beer at Christmas under the trade name Yarger Lager, will be in a bit of a bind.
“It’s my second-to-last bottle,” he says. “It’s that good.”
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.