Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

When it comes to county fairs, I'm a late bloomer. My parents never took me to the fair when I was a kid so I never knew what I was missing. The Los Angeles County Fair was held in the city of Pomona in the hot inland valley, a world away from the South Bay coastline where we lived. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

I was an adult when I attended my first fair. It was the 1978 Hawaii State Fair in Honolulu when my twins were 14 months old. I pushed them in a stroller along bumpy dusty dirt paths to check out pigs and cows and the critters at the petting zoo. It really wasn't a very memorable afternoon for me or the boys.

A few years later our family moved to Grants Pass, Ore., just down the road from the fairgrounds. The boys were now an ideal age for carnival rides and monster truck shows and attending every single day of the Josephine County Fair in the sweltering August heat became a family tradition.

We had our favorite fair foods (strawberry short cake with tons of

whipped cream), favorite fair rides (changed each year as the kids grew

older) and favorite fair exhibits (big vegetables always impressed

us-especially the killer pumpkins). And then, of course, there were all

the animals including the llama that spit in my face.

I made it a point to see everything on display in the exhibit halls

as I finally "got it" and understood what a fair is: members of the

community offering up their work and their wares for everyone to admire

and enjoy. It is literally an exhibition of what the good folks in one

county make and bake and sew and grow.

The exhibits consist of arts and crafts, foods and flowers, clothing

and photography-all made by people like me. It didn't take me long to

catch the fever and want to play a role in this activity called a fair. I

got the premium book (in Del Norte it's called the "Exhibitor's

Handbook") and pored over the pages that summoned me to take my place at

the fair. The plum tree in our back yard was dripping with ripe fruit

so I decided to make plum jam-and won a blue ribbon my first year out of

the gate!

Although I've been attending our local fair for the past 10 years,

I've never produced an entry here. Perhaps I've been too busy or perhaps

somewhere along the line I lost sight of the reason why I should. But

that's about to change.

The deadline to enter in most divisions for the 2011 Del Norte County

Fair is this Saturday, July 23. I'm excited about going for the gold

(or, in this case, the blue ribbon) in more than one category this year.

The 32-page Exhibitor's Handbook outlines the requirements to enter

in dozens of categories, from greeting cards to geraniums, snapdragons

to scarecrows, Bundt cakes to baby bunting. If you haven't read it,

you'd better hurry because there are just a few days left to turn in

your entry form and be a part of the August 4-7 Del Norte County Fair.

The handbook was published in The Daily Triplicate a while ago, but

if you can't find your copy visit Janet or Randy at the fairgrounds

office and they'll happily give you one.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.