To outsiders, entering a hand-knitted item in the Minnesota State Fair competition sounds quaint—a cozy throwback to a simpler time. But if you've ever stood in line outside the Creative Activities building the week before the fair opens, balancing an oversized bag on one wrist, frantically paging through a pink booklet to see if your hat fits Lot 331, 332, or maybe even 356, and casting furtive glances at the amazing piece of intarsia peeking out of someone else's bag, you know that, at least in Minnesota, the State Fair is a hotbed of cutthroat competition on a par with the Tour de France.
Your best friend? Yes, you're happy for her, but if her lace socks walk away with one more blue ribbon, you might just stop speaking to her. That nice-looking woman knitting through her son's swimming practice in July? That's a Fair Isle sweater she's got there, and she's going to finish it before you finish your Norwegian pullover. You're going to stay up all night the night before the competition closes, putting in your first-ever sweater zipper, and she's still going to beat you because Fair Isle is fingering weight and yours is only DK.
Okay, so none of us has turned to steroids or celebrity tell-all biographies—not yet, anyway. And yes, it is possible for even a no-ribbon winner to put aside her hurt feelings (couldn't they tell that I ripped that collar out four times to get it perfect?) and truly rejoice in the amazing talent that is all around us. Talent like that of MKG board member Susan Rainey, who walked away an overall sweepstakes winner this year for her multicolored sweater—and also won several shop-sponsored sweepstakes and the MKG's own award. (No, the judges don't know who knit what.) Or MKG members Elizabeth Watkins, who won Needlework Unlimited's "best hand-knitted" award; Debra Schlekewy, whose afghan took State Fair sweepstakes honors; Shirley Levitt, sweepstakes for best adult jacket; Michele Buck, Three Kittens’ sweepstakes for "unique color or texture"; and Carolyn Barsness, Clickety Sticks’ “judges' choice.”
For other winners, see the full 2007 hand-knitting competition listing elsewhere on our Web site. If you're not on there, don't despair—get your needles in training for next year!
Oh, and if you're imagining that winning State Fair glory makes you rich beyond the dreams of avarice, you might want to scale back your imagination a bit. Although the shop-sponsored sweepstakes can be quite generous (Ingebretsen's, for instance, gives $150 in gift certificates), a blue ribbon still nets you only $8, down to $2 for fourth place. At least then they don't have to tell you not to spend it all in one place.
Rebecca Ganzel Thompson is the MKG Web site's Infomaster. And she is thrilled that her limited-use color-pattern adult pullover (Lot 348) got a third-place ribbon this year.