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Yuba-Sutter Fair craft entries judged to be smaller in numbers
Audrey Souza is a fair judge.
For nearly 30 years, the 90-year-old Jackson woman has evaluated homemade pies, jellies, quilts, paintings, ceramics and dollhouses at county fairs across the state.
Along with her partner, Jesus Garcia, Souza spent her Sunday morning at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds in Yuba City examining everything from handmade wine-cork wreaths, wooden footstools and birdhouses to sketches, paintings, ceramic Christmas trees and red pepper jellies.
"This one is kind of a mess," Souza noted while turning a craft entry over and over in her hands. "It's not very well done on its back."
Quickly moving on another category entitled "Trash to Treasure," Souza immediately found something she'd never seen before: a stack of smooth, flat rocks assembled into a statue of a small dog.
"This is just adorable," Souza said, patting the dog's stone head. "No matter how long you do this, you always are learning or seeing something new."
At the other end of Exhibition Hall, Garcia held a glass jar of pomegranate jelly up to the light and concentrated.
"If it is jelly, you want to be able to see through it," Garcia explained.
Garcia enjoys judging jellies and preserves, he said, because he likes to eat.
After more than 15 years on the jelly judging circuit, Garcia knows exactly what he's looking for both inside and outside the jar.
"You see how clean the jar is, make sure there's no rust, then you look at how full it is, and then you go for the taste," Garcia explained.
Judging treats and crafts is always fun, but there was one problem Sunday morning at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds: There wasn't that much judging to do.
Craft entries have declined steadily for nearly a decade.
Fewer quilts, fewer preserves and fewer works of art have been entered at county fairs statewide.
"Oh, it's down just about everywhere," Garcia said.
Quilting judge Helen Hardwick agreed.
"It's down by more than 50 percent across the board over the last few years," Hardwick said. "It's not down everywhere, but it is down in a lot of places."
Last year, the Yuba-Sutter Fair's quilting competition exhibited more than 50 homemade blankets; this year, that number dropped to 36.
Garcia believes many people either don't spend the money to enter or can no longer afford it.
But it isn't all doom and gloom for fair competition, according to the fair's chief executive officer, Regina Goody.
"Those (craft) entries have been declining for many years now, but our animal count is up from last year and we're expanding and adding new crafts such as flower-building and bringing in new products to go with the jams and jellies," Goody said. "We're always looking to bring in new products."
CONTACT Rob Parsons at rparsons@ appealdemocrat.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.