Originally published in the Ellensburg Daily Record
By Molly Allen
The Kittitas County Fair offers event-goers something for everyone — a selection of fair food, the opportunity to stroll through the barns to pet animals and a countless number of entertainment acts. It also offers the Home Arts Building and 4-H Building, filled with youth crafts, sewing projects, home-grown flowers and vegetables and a slew of baked goods.
The Monday before fair opens is check-in day for the Adult Baking and Youth Baking Departments. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., more than 200 community members brought in their most-prized recipe to be judged this year.
One community member, Bill Roberts, came in with his wife, Judy, a former Kittitas County Fair Board member. Now retired from the Fair Board, Judy has entered a number of baked good entries over the years.
After serving the Ellensburg Police Department and Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department and living in the valley for over 30 years, Bill had never entered in the fair. With encouragement from his wife, he submitted an entry this year. He arrived with vanilla cupcakes in hand, one plate to be judged for taste and texture, the other for decoration.
He asked if the Kittitas County Fair would give out “pity ribbons.”
“I was going for simplicity and focusing on the mechanics. It’s my first time. Go easy on me,” he said.
The two Baking Departments have three judges who devote their time to tasting each entry the day of check-in. Judges are selected by the superintendent in charge of the department and can range from professionals in the field to seasoned home-bakers. Many exhibitors bring their entries in freshly baked that day, some still warm upon dropping them off.
The judges sample each of the 200 plus items, judging for taste, texture, appearance and other qualities of a perfectly baked treat. A judging sheet is filled out to critique each entry. Entries are then designated with a first, second or third place ribbon. Judges remain anonymous throughout the process.
Entries range from simple cookie recipes to a number of entries of banana, zucchini and pumpkin bread, to decorated cakes.
Following judging, the baked goods are marked with ribbons, categorized and displayed. All display set-up and decorating is worked on up until the night before fair opens.
The Adult Baking and Youth Baking Departments continuously look to improve the exhibitors guide for the next year, as trends in baking constantly change. Last year was the first time for gluten free and vegan categories, and each year participation continues to grow.