10 Blue-Ribbon-Winning State Fair Recipes
Bright lights, fried food, and the faint sound of trumpets carrying a chipper tune are what we fondly remember of the local state fairs of our childhood. But with all the crowds, games, and prizes, has anyone ever thought of where these traditions come from?
State fairs were born because of farming and agriculture; they were the result of farmers looking to improve agricultural society by gathering together and discussing tips for farming, demonstrating livestock, and coming up with plans for bountiful harvests. Slowly, these exhibitions became competitions between the farmers, and the meetings grew far more social. Eventually, a tradition was born, and state fairs across the country began.
Competitions ranging from the largest-grown pumpkin to the best-arranged flowers have been gracing fairs for decades, and now cooking has become a popular addition. Showcasing everything from the best apple pies to SPAM donuts, home cooks all around the country enter to compete at their local state fairs, and it’s all for an extremely high honor — a blue ribbon.
"People of all ages and generations compete and showcase at the fair, and have for centuries," explains Cyndi Harles of The Blue Ribbon Group, which coordinates recipe contest programs with top fairs throughout the country on behalf of beloved, popular brands. "The first competitions we organized were cake, cookie, and bread contests in the 1980s and 1990s.
Thousands of hopefuls flock to flex their skills at annual fairs, and participating is fairly easy.
"Participants pre-register with their state fair or regional fair and check out their general and special contests (in what’s sometimes called a premium book)," Harles says. "Most often, you prepare your entry at home and deliver it to the fair for judging, following the guidelines. The contests are generally in culinary, creative arts, and home/hobby type buildings. Winning first place could mean anything from a coveted blue ribbon to national awards and prizes."
So, to find a recipe good enough to "wow" an entire state, we ventured across America with the help of The Blue Ribbon Group to bring you some of the best and tastiest fair fare in the country. From California to North Carolina, these blue ribbon recipes have wowed their local state fairs, so let them wow you, too.