altOne of the highlights of the end of summer is the Washington County Fair in Fayetteville, Ark.

I love how this event brings our community together. Whether you live on a farm or in the middle of town, there is something attractive to people of all ages.

This year, I thought I was organized and ready to help the kids prepare their entries. Of course, the reality after a busy couple of weeks of school was that we were working on them the night before entry day. Entries are made on a couple of different days. Home economics go in on a Saturday, prepared foods and horticulture exhibits are entered the following Monday.

As our children were thumbing through the fair book to help determine the best category for each item, they ran across the prepared foods exhibit pages. All four of our kids love to help in the kitchen, especially baking. The girls have become proficient enough to read and follow simple recipes like chocolate chip cookies without any adult help.

As we prepared Friday night for Saturday entries, they thought of several items they could make and bake to enter on Monday as well. Nothing is ever simple at our house. The girls each invited a friend to come be a part of what is now known as fair entry frenzy. We enjoyed having a kitchen full of girls. Each pair chose a few recipes to prepare. They also decided to decorate “dummy” cakes and enter the cake decorating category. I don’t know if I’ve ever helped mix up that much icing in one 24-hour period.

The kitchen was a busy place all weekend. The oven stayed hot and the mixer only got a break for washing. They prepared no bake cookies, Oh Henry bars, our family’s famous Texas chocolate sheet cake, chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies. It was an impressive feat. The boys poked their faces in the kitchen to check on things that could be tasted and beaters that might need to be licked off. They were feeling left out of the chaos, so I let them each choose a recipe to make as well.

Our 9-year-old son determined he wanted to make a pumpkin pie. I asked him if he was sure that was the best thing to enter in the August fair and he said yes. Once he realized he had to enter the entire pie, he was annoyed. He didn’t think he should bake anything and not get at least one piece of it. We ended up making two pumpkin pies so we had one to enjoy at home. Our youngest son made Nieman Marcus bars and both boys helped decorate some extremely unique sugar cookies and “dummy” cakes.

On Sunday our dining room looked like the storefront of a bakery. The kids picked their vegetable garden entries for the horticulture exhibit. We were ready. All the mess and an extra trip to the store was worth it to see them put so much effort into trying something new. Their friends worked hard right alongside them.

When we finally made it to the fair to see their entries and check out their ribbons it was satisfying to see their reactions. Our youngest daughter was excited to learn that her first canned salsa would be going on to make an appearance at the Arkansas State Fair in the fall. Each of the kids won ribbons and were proud to show them off. Sharing in their hard work and county fair victories was so sweet, neighbor.

Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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