When you think of an old-time local fair, you might imagine neighbors winning a ribbon for their famous blueberry pie, hand-stitched quilt or prized cow.
All of these things are still possible for those who exhibit their wares in the Open Class contest at the 70th Annual Marias Fair in Shelby the third week of July.
The Open Class provides an opportunity for any resident of Pondera, Toole, Glacier or Liberty counties to participate in the fair. Exhibits are broken into categories including agriculture (beef, sheep, dairy goats, poultry, waterfowl, rabbits, wool, and farm crops), home and garden (home arts, culinary, garden crops, and floriculture), art (creative arts, photography, wood, metalwork, and crafts) and FFA projects.
Each major department is broken into divisions. Often, these divisions are used to separate youth from adult and golden age exhibitors, or to separate breeds of animals for fairness in judging. Exhibitors earn premium money by placing in their respective classes. Last year, 150 exhibitors submitted entries in the Open Class division, and almost $3,000 in premium money was awarded.
Although the Open Class is a traditional component of the Marias Fair, the program stays current, changing classes to fit the evolving needs and interests of the exhibitors. Open Class Superintendent Helen Brown said, “With free admission to the midway, exhibits and vendors this year, we expect a large crowd at this upcoming fair. We have made some changes to the Open Class to encourage more people to exhibit their projects and provide a wide variety of exhibits for all the spectators to enjoy.”
“One way we are encouraging new exhibitors is by implementing a ‘Rookie of the Year’ program,” said Brown. First-year exhibitors of all ages will receive a colored sticker to affix to their entry tags, and a “Rookie of the Year” award will be given to one first-time exhibitor.
To encourage family participation, a brand new class has been added to the premium book found as an insert in this edition of the newspaper. The adult-child Craft or Home Art project allows families to work together to help young children make a project that may otherwise be too difficult for a child to do on their own. Possibilities are endless, but examples could include a scrapbooking project, Christmas ornament, or family-made quilt.
To further persuade young children to participate, kids ages eight and under are invited to enter the Open Class coloring contest also found in the premium book. Pay-One-Price tickets for the midway rides will be awarded to randomly chosen winners of the coloring contest in each age group.
Besides these additions, changes have also been made within departments. For example, the photography department has been updated to include modified digital photos and digital photo projects such as posters, invitations or Christmas cards. Also, a gluten-free section has been added to the culinary arts department. With the renewed interest in home and community gardens, unique garden collection entries have become more popular, such as potted “Salsa Gardens,” “Taste of Italy” collections, or the humorous “Unique-Shaped Vegetable” class.
Another exciting change is the addition of the commercial beef class. Brown said, “We encourage entries in the penned cow-calf pair and steer shows. This makes the beef show more accessible to all those who raise cattle in our area, not just those people who raise registered cattle. However, there are still classes for registered cattle like always.”
All exhibits are open to public viewing after judging has been completed.
Fairgoers are encouraged to take the time to go through the basement of the School Building, the Mercantile Building, and the animal barns. “People’s Choice” awards will be voted on by the public and prizes awarded to the winners in both the Photography and Home Arts departments.
Be sure to check your premium book for entry deadlines and judging times. Many entries are due by 6 p.m. Wednesday, the day before the traditional start of the fair.
Early registrations will also be accepted July 19 from 5 - 8 p.m. in the Open Class office under the south end of the grandstands. Additional premium books can be found at local extension offices or the Marias Fair Office at the fairgrounds.
For more information, or if additional exhibitor tags or entry forms are needed early to accommodate a large number of exhibits, please contact Open Class clerk Sanna Clark at 450-2122.