Fair for fun and profit

— The Moffat County Fair gives residents the chance to showcase the projects they spent an entire year working on. From raising livestock to sewing an outfit to painting a landscape, fair is the time to pit a carefully developed skill against others.

Not only does the Moffat County Fair give people the chance to compete, but it can be profitable for those who earn awards for their projects.

The 1999 Moffat County Fair was held Saturday and Sunday.

Each year, contestants are paid for their winning entries. A blue ribbon earns $3, a red ribbon earns $2 and a white ribbon is worth $1. The Moffat County Fair Board cuts about $4,000 in checks every year to pay participants for their labors.

That payment could be what ensures the fair will live on for next year.

Iva Decker, 57, has been entering the fair on and off since she was an 8-year-old girl in 4-H. She has submitted art projects, canned goods, flowers, baking and vegetables. She said she just enters for fun and competition. She declares "war" on other contestants to see who can win.

"It's just plain fun," she said. "You don't really care if you beat them or not, but when you do you really gloat."

But there's an additional perk.

Decker uses the money she wins at fair to buy seeds or crochet yarn that will be used for her entries the next year.

This year, Decker won three grand champion ribbons and two reserve champion ribbons and a slew of blue and red ribbons, but is not sure how much her cash award is worth. She does remember a year where she won $87 for her entries.

The money helps, but she'd still enter if it didn't pay, she said.

Decker has passed her enthusiasm for fair on to her children and grandchildren, all who are immersed in the fair and when she stopped entering, it was her children and grandchildren who piqued her interest again.

Decker's daughter, Recena Williams, entered 46 projects between her son and herself. This is the eighth year she has competed. Between the division Williams competes in herself and the "mommy and me" division she helps her son in, Williams believes she earned a ribbon for just about every project. There have been years they have earned more than $100 together.

"My son just loves fair because he gets money," she said. "(The fair) really helps kids with their self-esteem. It puts a smile on their face to see the ribbon their project won."

The money Williams earns is used to buy canning jars or plants.

"We use it to help improve for next year," she said.

Joyce Leblanc, 70, takes the award for longevity. She has been entering canned goods, sewing, baked goods and flowers in fairs since she was 19.

Leblanc doesn't enter for show, or even for the competition. She does it so she can earn money to supplement her social security income. Last year she earned $180. This year she entered about 65 projects, but doesn't yet know their cash value.

She uses the money to splurge on things she normally wouldn't get to buy.

"I spend it on whatever extra thing I think I would like, like a beanie baby to give to my grandkids," Leblanc said.

Leblanc has always had a talent for canning, baking and sewing.

"It's God-given," she said. "He probably thought he had to do something with me."

She taught herself the skills by trial and error.

"I didn't ask many people, I just tried it on my own," she said.

Not always successfully.

Leblanc still keeps the first sewing project she did. She made a silk blouse for her 3-month-old daughter, which was unwearable.

"The cuffs were so thick I don't know how I got a needle through them," Leblanc said.

She keeps the shirt to remind her where she came from and where she's gone from there.

It was a necessary skill for Leblanc, who had five children and canned goods and homemade clothes offset the grocery bills.

The entries of these three women weren't enough to provide much competition in the canning section of the Moffat County Fair.

"Canning was way, way, way down this year," Delaine Voloshin, fair coordinator, said. "We usually hire three judges for canning and this year we barely had enough to keep one busy."

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