State Fair Creative Arts Contest: Get Your Entries Ready!

Prize RibbonsIt’s that time of year again: State Fair Days! At our house, that means we are busy and bustling around, trying to get all our entries ready for the Creative Arts contests.

Drop-off days come a lot earlier than they used to here in the Piney Woods of East Texas. We missed the first, which was yesterday, but I’ll have another chance to submit crafts and artwork for judging on Saturday. That means I have a lot of framing/ reframing to do between now and then (no sawtooth hangers — all pictures must have screws and wire).

Entering handwork in the state fair is a long-time tradition. My parents did it with me when I was little, and now I do it with my own children. They love winning ribbons and cash prizes for the things they make. Even our littlest guys get in on the action with Duplo creations and finger-painting.

Over the years, I’ve developed this State Fair Creative Arts Contest Record Keeping Chart to help the sign-in/drop-off procedure at the Creative Arts Building run smoothly. It also helps me remember what I need to pick up after the fair is over (one pre-chart year, we accidentally left a state quarter collection behind and had to jump through several hoops before we got it back to its rightful owner). And lastly, there’s a column for recording prize winnings, to help us remember how well we did.

Free Printable Chart for Tracking of State Fair Creative Arts Entries

State Fair Creative Arts Contest Chart

Maybe State Fair contests are old hat for you. Perhaps you’ve raised a calf with 4H in the past. Or entered some homemade preserves in the canning competition. Or sewn a dress for the fashion show.

If not — if you’ve never taken part in these creative arts contests — I’d encourage you to do so this year. It’s a great confidence builder for your kids. Print the chart out, fill it in, and use it for your own records this year. And best of luck to you in the competition!

Abby shows off her prize-winning fingerpainting for the State Fair Creative Arts Contest .

Tips for Doing Well in the State Fair’s Creative Arts Contest

  • Submit as many entries as you can

    In our local East Texas State Fair, it costs nothing to enter the Creative Arts Competition. But children can win cash money prizes for the masterpieces they create: each blue ribbon earns $3, red earns $2, and white earns $1. It is to their advantage, then, to enter as many of their arts and crafts projects as each division allows. (Consult the current year’s Creative Arts Handbook for pre-set limits.)

    Adults are encouraged to enter, too, but they are just awarded the satin ribbons for their winning entries – no cash, unless their work is judged to be the best of show.

  • Don’t let a perceived lack of talent stop you

    I’d encourage you to participate, whether you consider yourself “artistic” or not. In years past, our kids have been awarded premiums for bug, quarter, and comic book collections, for Lego creations, Lincoln Log buildings, and dioramas made with dirt and dinosaurs, and for tin can “pencil holders” painted, wrapped with twine, or otherwise embellished.

  • Learn from past experience what kinds of projects do well

    We always have at least one new portrait of Spongebob to enter, too. Ever since one of my sons won a tri-color ribbon for his Spongebob several years ago, his younger siblings have considered that to be the secret sauce. Maybe they’re right. We’ve entered as many as three different versions in a single year, and they’ve all won awards.

    Spongebob is a recurring theme with our family in the State Fair Creative Arts Contest .

    My children have scrapbooks full of ribbons they’ve earned over the years. Their piggy banks have profited, as well. Our family’s take last year was over $150. And that doesn’t even include all the money our grandkids won!

  • Enter whatever projects your child is most proud of

    Of course, my kids are admittedly very creative. But the same can be said of every child I’ve ever met. So I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets as to why they’ve done so well in recent years.

    First, I’ve learned not to pre-judge my children’s artwork. I used to enter only those pieces I thought were award-worthy, but sometimes what I considered their best work wouldn’t even place.

    Now, I let my kids decide what they’ll enter, and they’ve been raking in the premiums.

    Sometimes projects I’m almost embarrassed to hand over have come home with tri-color ribbons, including a seemingly out-of-place Christmas ornament my 12-year-old made out of wax last year. It depicted a hamburger flanked by fries and a coke. That’s something everyone associates with advent, right?

  • Set fair entries aside all year

    Another thing that really helps my kids do well in the Creative Arts Competition is that they no longer have to scurry around at the last minute getting submissions ready. I’ve learned to set their arts and craft projects aside for this purpose all year long. We keep a special rubbermaid bucket in the garage for just this purpose.

    Whenever they paint a new picture or weave a potholder or craft a cool diorama for a class at our homeschool co-op, the fruits of their labor go immediately into that storage box for safekeeping until fair time rolls around in September. Then it’s a simple matter of emptying the box and cataloging the projects on my handy free printable record keeping chart above.

  • Get your entries in on time

    The last reason our kids have fared so well lately is because drop-off days come a lot earlier than they used to. For decades, entries were accepted a few days before the fair opened, but now you’ve got to get them in 2-3 weeks ahead of time.

    The competition is not nearly as stiff, because a lot of people forget until it’s too late.

    But competition encourages everyone to do their best work, so if you live locally, gather up those art projects and give it a shot. Visit the East Texas State Fair website for more information or to pre-register.

    If you don’t live in East Texas, then check to see if there’s a similar program at a fair closer to home.

I hope this post has convinced you participating in State Fair arts and crafts contests is doable and worthwhile. The Creative Arts building has always been my favorite exhibit at the fair, and I’d love to see the work of some new artists – young or old – when I visit this year!

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