Judg­ing Sum­mer’s Bounty

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ayer’s Cliff

The Hor­ti­cul­tural Build­ing on the Ayer’s Cliff fair­grounds was a flurry of ac­tiv­ity Fri­day morn­ing. Although or­ga­niz­ers be­gan re­ceiv­ing the jars of pre­serves, maple prod­ucts, house­plants and other kinds of en­tries that have a shelf life on

Thurs­day, the more per­ish­able items, like the freshly picked and ar­ranged flower bou­quets and fresh baked bread ar­rive Fri­day morn­ing, all be­fore the dead­line of 10:00.

This is a se­ri­ous con­test with big tro­phies, brag­ging rights and hard cash on the line and the com­pe­ti­tion is fierce.

The lengthy judg­ing process be­gins around 11:00 am with the judges and their helpers all head­ing to their re­spec­tive de­part­ments. With so many en­tries and so many dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, it takes care­ful record­ing by the helpers to keep the judges’ eval­u­a­tions straight. The task is made even more dif­fi­cult be­cause the judges can’t know who en­tered the ex­hibits. A num­bered ex­hibit tag, filled out care­fully by the Stanstead County Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s sec­re­tary-trea­surer, Deb­bie Smith, ac­com­pa­nies each ex­hibit.

Char­lene Jo­hann, be­ing helped by Hazel Mark­well, was tast­ing pre­served pears when I asked her for some rib­bon-winning tips. “I judge the pre­serves on taste, colour and the pack­ag­ing, like us­ing new rings on the jars, es­pe­cially in the gift bas­kets,” she said, adding: “I hate to judge the bak­ing; it puts on too much weight!”

Neil Mc­Comb was help­ing Therese Me­nard Th­er­oux, an award-winning maple syrup pro­ducer from the Cook­shire area, as she judged the maple prod­ucts. “The judge checks the den­sity, colour and flavour of the syrup,” said Neil.

Kelly Be­langer, who was judg­ing the baked goods, looked in­tent as she tasted a tiny piece of a bak­ing pow- der bis­cuit. “I have so many things to taste that I have to take re­ally small pieces. I’m check­ing the taste, tex­ture, feel and the look,” she said. Vye Dan­forth and Sue Fletcher recorded Kelly’s com­ments. “When the judges get here at 10:00, they see num­bers on the ex­hibit tags but no names,” ex­plained Vye. “We have to be re­ally quiet while the judg­ing is go­ing on; we’re not even al­lowed to chit chat!” whis­pered Sue.

One of the cake en­tries was a stand-out: a cho­co­late cake dec­o­rated as a minia­ture veg­etable gar­den, com­plete with over a dozen va­ri­eties of veg­eta­bles on the top. Sarah Roy, from Og­den, took first place with that orig­i­nal cre­ation. “I used crushed cook­ies on top of ic­ing for the dirt and I made each veg­etable out of fon­dant. It took hours to make all the veg­eta­bles and I had to put it all to­gether just be­fore the fair so it would look per­fect,” said Sarah, adding: “I’m go­ing to put the cake up for sale here and then do­nate the money for the up­keep of the Hor­ti­cul­tural Build­ing.”

Lu­cie Cho­quette, who teaches at the CRIFA in Coat­i­cook, was judg­ing fruit en­tries of ap­ples, cher­ries and blue­ber­ries. “I’m look­ing at the size of the fruit, the colour and I’m look­ing for dis­ease,” said Lu­cie as she care­fully ex­am­ined a ‘peach’ ap­ple, a rare va­ri­ety.

Wendy Ma­son was tak­ing the notes while judge Mike MacDon­ald in­spected the veg­etable ex­hibits. “What I go by is what I would like to eat,” com­mented Mike as he picked up an alu­minium pie plate hold­ing a neat row of pur­ple beans. “I look at the ma­tu­rity of the bean, the uni­for­mity of the beans, and look at the care this ex­hibitor took in the pre­sen­ta­tion, lin­ing up the beans neatly with all the stems at one end!” he said, ob­vi­ously im­pressed. “The veg­eta­bles should also be true to type,” he added, point­ing to a squash that didn’t look ex­actly like the but­ter­cup va­ri­ety it was sup­posed to be. “The veg­etable judge wields a large stick!” joked Mr. MacDon­ald.

Judg­ing the flow­ers is a daunt­ing task that takes about four hours. The flower cat­e­gories seem end­less with al­most twenty cat­e­gories for gla­di­o­las alone and spe­cialty cat­e­gories like the “Fairy Break­fast in an egg cup” – a minia­ture flower ar­range­ment made in an egg cup. “And we make it ex­tra hard for the judge; after she’s judged all the bou­quets she has to pick out the best sin­gle rose, dahlia, glad­i­ola and gera­nium,” com­mented Louise Bald­win who was help­ing flower judge MarieTrees Jet­ton along with Phyl­lis Dustin. “With the house­plants, I’m look­ing at the gen­eral ap­pear­ance, the health of the plant, if it’s been cleaned and groomed, or if it’s be­ing used in an un­usual way,” said the judge. “And there can’t be any ear­wigs,” added Louise.

The field crops: pota­toes, pump­kins, sun­flow­ers, oats, corn, soy beans, al­falfa, clover and, of course, hay, were be­ing judged by an­other teacher from Coat­i­cook’s agri­cul­tural school, Chan­tal Kils­donk, aided by two long time Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety mem­bers, Melvin Dustin and Ghis­laine Viens. “In grain corn, I’m look­ing for uni­for­mity of ears, full cobs and a healthy plant,” said Chan­tal en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. I was sur­prised to learn that pota­toes should have “nice eyes”. Al­falfa and clover need to be dis­ease-free and to have been har­vested at the right stage of bloom, when the nu­tri­tional level of the plant is at its high­est. When asked how long he’d been vol­un­teer­ing at the Ayer’s Cliff Fair, Melvin Dustin replied: “About fifty years. I don’t know how to say no!”

“We’re al­ways look­ing for new vol­un­teers to be­come mem­bers of the Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety or just to vol­un­teer dur­ing fair week,” men­tioned Deb­bie Smith. “Yes, it would be ter­rific to have new vol­un­teers or mem­bers,” added Tri­cia McDaid, the pres­i­dent of the So­ci­ety. For more in­for­ma­tion about vol­un­teer­ing or to be­come a mem­ber of the So­ci­ety, call Tri­cia at 819 838 1833.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Hazel Mark­well and Char­lene Jo­hann with the pre­serves.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Chan­tal Kils­donk (left) was judg­ing corn with help from Melvin Dustin and Ghis­laine Viens.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Veg­etable judge Mike MacDon­ald was im­pressed with these pur­ple beans.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Judge Marie-Trees Jet­ton was hav­ing a hard time de­cid­ing which dahlia de­served a rib­bon.

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