"This is the youth," Debra Bolton said, motioning to the right where youth entries sat on shelves for the food preservation category.

The adult open class shelves for food preservation were to the left.

Thursday afternoon was filled with hustle and bustle as participants dropped off their entries to fair superintendents and volunteers in the Exhibition Building at the Finney County Fairgrounds.

Bolton was stretching as far as she could to reach and place jars of canned vegetables and other food on the top shelf.

Jars of medium salsa, applesauce, peaches, apple pie filling, peach pie filling, pear sauce, wax beans, green beans, strawberry jam, pickled beets and more lined the shelves.

About 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Bolton and other volunteers were shifting some of the overflow from the adult open shelves to the youth side. There are usually more adult entries than youth. 

"Everything has a class number," superintendent and fair volunteer Margie Hubbard said of the jars.

Hubbard, Bolton and others were placing the class numbers in order, with Hubbard explaining the judge will judge all of the entries in the same class. Hubbard said each entry is judged on its own merits, not against the others.

"They go from pickles to vegetables to fruits... usually," Hubbard said of the jars, adding a couple still were out of order on Thursday afternoon.

I showed up empty-handed to check-in on Thursday.

After nearly three years of working at The Telegram and covering the fair, I've never once entered. I've always been nervous about entering in open class in the fair — I'm not sure why, but it always seemed like a bigger task than it really is.

On Thursday, though, watching participants walk around with their projects — the excitement and hope of winning in their faces — I found the process less intimidating, almost exciting. And I started thinking entering a project in the fair might be more doable than I thought.

"There's definitely a buzz in the air," Hubbard said of check-in time.

Hubbard enjoys seeing what people have worked on through the year. But for Hubbard, personally, she'd like to see more people enter the fair.

"I always love to see new faces," she said of participants and entries. "I'd love to see them bring some things down."

While the judges open the soft spreads — that's your jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades and butters — and sometimes the pickled items, they rarely open any other jars, Hubbard said.

The premiums are a great incentive for the kids, Hubbard said — a blue ribbon receives $3, red is $2 and white is $1. It's a good way, she said, for kids to raise money to fund their ride bracelets at the carnival.

An overall win receives an additional prize, she said.

And the big rosette ribbons also are big motivators, she said.

While Hubbard handled food preservation entries, superintendent Lachele Greathouse and her son, Austin, worked in the model and interlock blocks category — that includes, among others things, model cars, rocketry, anything with interlocked blocks, such as Legos, and products made from duct tape.

"I think it's all exciting," Lachele Greathouse said of the entries and check-in.

Anyone can enter the fair, she said, adding they don't have to be in 4-H. "There's something here for everybody," she said of the entries.

Austin said he enters for a chance at the rosettes. So far, he's only received one.

"They're hard to get," Greathouse said.

"But it feels really, really good," Austin said when you do win one.

I doubt my first time to enter the fair will garner me a rosette. But I think next year, I'll take a chance and bring a jar, a duct tape hat or whatever other creation I can come up with.

Staff writer Stephanie Farley can be e-mailed at sfarley@gctelegram.com.

On the Web:

Finney County Fair: http://www.finneycountyfair.org/

Download a copy of the Finney County Fair book.

Have you entered contests at the fair? Share your experiences at SWKTalk.com.