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Morning Sun
  • 4-Hers compete in opening event of fair — Foods

  • The 4-H foods contest is now the traditional first event of the Crawford County Fair, the opening event of two weeks worth of contests and competitions.

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  • The 4-H foods contest is now the traditional first event of the Crawford County Fair, the opening event of two weeks worth of contests and competitions.
    But why? Why are the foods so early? It turns out there’s a reasonable explanation why the foods contest doesn’t take place the same time as all the other contests.
    “We started having perishable foods, and the kids would be down working with hogs or goats, and then come in and work with foods,” said Martha Murphy, Kansas State Wildcat District extension agent. “We didn’t want them to make the food unsafe. We just thought it would be something a little more pleasant [to move the contest].”
    The food contest put dozens of contestants up to the judges’ tables, ready with critiques of whatever food the 4-Hers presented. And there was plenty of variety.
    In between bites of cookies, sweets and cakes, judges would have to try bites of enchiladas, casseroles, pretzels and more.
    “It sure is interesting,” said Kacey Preston, the junior foods judge, a family and consumer sciences teacher from Yates Center. “It makes it fun to judge because it’s not the same thing. I’ve been in counties where it’s the same thing every time. This gives you a variety of tastes.”
    The competitors are divided, as usual, into the three age tiers often seen in 4-H: juniors (7-9), intermediate (10-13), and seniors (4-19). But while there may be dozens of foods presented and many ribbons distributed, there are only four “big” prizes for each age group selected from among the purple ribbons: best of show, judge’s choice, reserve champion and grand champion.
    And with dozens of cookies, numerous cakes and a number of casseroles, it can be difficult to separate one colored ribbon from the next.
    “You’re really looking for proper cooking techniques, the proper preparation, if they followed the recipe properly,” Preston said. “Every recipe is different, and you really want to make sure the recipe is followed. Make sure it’s the proper oven temperature and that it didn’t get too browned.”
    The interview is just as important as the preparation of the food, with judges grilling competitors to determine how well they know their food, the recipe, and how it was made. All told, the contest is less about judgment and more about teaching skills to the boys and girls.
    “We want them to enjoy cooking. It’s a lost art ina  lot of homes,” Preston said. “There’s so much prepared food and takeout foods. We want them to know that they can buy and cook foods, saving money and preparing a more nutritious meal than normal.”

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