Stanley heads Open Class for 40 years

This year, for the first time in nearly 40 years, volunteer Joyce Stanley won?t be heading up the Jefferson County Fair?s Open Class Division, but she?ll still be offering her experience and advice as one of the event volunteers.

?There?s other things going on right now, but I?m still involved,? said Stanley. ?I want to be. I enjoy it.?

The Open Class Division started in 1981 as a way to get more people involved in the county fair.

?My husband was on the fair board, and he asked me if there was something I could do for women at the fair,? recalled Stanley.

That ?something? evolved into the Open Class Division, an exhibit of arts and crafts, handwork, foods, flowers, fruits and vegetables, agriculture products and more created or grown by non-professional adults and youth.

The first year, organizers collected donations from the local banks totaling $400 or $500 to help them get started and cover expenses. Since 2008, the group auctions a quilt ? made from the quilt blocks entered in the previous year?s fair ? during opening day events of the Greater Jefferson County Fair to fund their activities.

?We?re financially not connected to the fair board,? explained Stanley. ?We pay our own bills.?

The Open Class Division started by copying the Iowa State Fair entries, ?but on a smaller scale,? said Stanley. ?We called for food, clothing, woodworking ? It went over pretty good. We had quite a few entries that first year.?

The cost to enter was, and remains, $1 per adult entry and 50 cents per youth entry.

The first few years, the Open Class entries were exhibited in the old Elm Grove country schoolhouse, which had been relocated to the fairgrounds in 1962. Stanley said entries were displayed on the old school desks and in an old donated display case.

When the old schoolhouse began to deteriorate, the Open Class Division exhibit moved into a corner of the old Block Building, which stood where the new Cambridge Learning Center is now. For several years, it has now shared the Activity Building with the Jefferson County 4-H Static Display.

?We are in the east end of the building, and it works out real good,? said Stanley.

Stanley pointed out the entries have varied and changed over the years.

?Times change,? she said. ?We don?t see so many bread entries, and only a few canning entries. We?ve had low times when we didn?t get much interest, but we kept it going and always got entries.?

In the beginning, Stanley said one first-place blue ribbon, one second-place red ribbon and one third-place white ribbon were awarded in each class. But she said that was a difficult job to do because entries were often so diverse they couldn?t really be compared. To avoid hurt feelings, the organizers switched to awarding a ribbon to each entry based on its quality of work: blue for the outstanding work, red for the average work and white for work that could be improved.

Each ribbon also comes with a premium: $1.50 for blue, $1 for red and 50 cents for white.

?That has never changed since the beginning,? said Stanley, adding with a laugh: ?You?re not going to get rich from it!?

In the last few years, the Open Class Division added several activities to entertain people at the fair.

One of the earliest was a scavenger hunt in which people could pick up a form from the Open Division exhibit in the Activity Building, find the listed items, and return the form for a chance at a prize.

The activities also have included cupcake decorating, a duct tape contest, bubble gum bubble-blowing contest, a watermelon seed spitting contest, a frozen T-shirt contest and a rubber-chicken throwing contest.

?A lot of young men really like the chicken throwing,? Stanley said.

The Open Class also has set up unsupervised toss games outside the Activity Building for anyone to play, had a toy train display for children to play with while their parents looked at the exhibits and even had long pieces of ?end roll? paper from The Fairfield Ledger for children to color.

?That still goes over good,? said Stanley. ?Even the teens like to color. If one starts, others join in.?

Stanley said nothing new has come up yet for this year?s Open Class Division at the Greater Jefferson County Fair, but the group has only had one planning meeting so far.

?We?re always looking for something new that doesn?t cost very much, but gives kids something to do,? she said.

?Tracy Hammes is the new president. She?s young. She?ll have some new ideas and maybe do some things differently.?

Anyone who would like to volunteer with the Open Class Division can contact Stanley at 472-2625 or Hammes at 919-7738 for details.

Anyone who would like information about the rules and regulations of entering an item at the fair can contact Stanley, Hammes or the Jefferson County ISU Extension and Outreach office at 472-4166 or visit the Greater Jefferson County Fair?s website at

The 2018 Greater Jefferson County Fair runs June 27 through July 2.