Red Ribbons

Childhood Memories Friday

July: it conjures up thoughts of fireworks, gardening, heat, vacations. All those things, sure — but around here, the overriding image of July is the county fair.

I was a 10-year 4-Her, and now my kids are heading that direction as well. The past weeks have been a whirlwind of collecting leaves, baking strawberry braids, researching this topic ‘n that for posters, sewing shirts, mod podging a little bit of everything … you get the picture.

All in hopes of a champion, or at least a blue ribbon. Recently, I looked through my own ribbons, now smelling a bit musty as they sit at the bottom of a box in the basement. Amidst all the purple, pink, and blue, what stands out are the few reds.

In 4-H, projects are basically given a blue (the best), a red (next best), or a white (uh-oh) according to their merit, in the judge’s eyes. Although results vary by fair, I’d say about 70% of projects usually get blue ribbons, maybe 25% get red, and you’ll see just a few whites in the mix (these often inspire gasps and scrutiny to see just what the problem was).

And as I looked over my ribbons, I realized something: the “red” projects are generally some of my memorable. To name a few:

  • The elephant mobile I made in Childcare. Yes, the elephants had little black button eyes. Yes, I realized that this could be a choking hazard, AND THAT’S WHY I EMPHASIZED IN MY NOTEBOOK THAT I SEWED THEM ON ABOUT 20 TIMES TO AVOID THE RISK. Did the judge read that part? Guess not, because what I got was a red ribbon and a note about the buttons being a choking hazard.
  • The one year I attempted Geology. Readers, I am ashamed to admit that I confused slate for shale and vice versa. The similarity between the two has been a source of confusion in my life many times since then, as I’m sure you can imagine.
  • The year I wanted to sew a suit in clothing. Despite my mom’s dire warnings, I bought the pattern and insisted on sewing that blazer, even knowing that the judge would mercilessly hold up the two lapels against each other to see if they matched. I suppose they did not, for I got a red.
  • My banana nut bread. We had already made it twice that morning, since the first one didn’t come out right. You’d think I would have gotten brownie points for that, but no. We had to run over to the neighbor’s to borrow a banana (no 24-hr stores back then), and the judge deemed the banana too large, as she said the bread was too moist. Ah, well.

So, while it would be great to be blue or purple all the time, perhaps the red memories are worth something.

red ribbons

4 thoughts on “Red Ribbons

  1. Banana bread that was “too moist”?? I’d heard from my BF that Jackson County judges were really something! (She has her own tales of horror from food preservation and sewing!!).

    I love the diligence and attention to detail that 4-H taught us all. I was only in it one year, but got so much from that year. Sadly, my kids were not at all interested–to much like Science Fair!! lol

    I left you a comment about my artist-uncle. I put it there instead of her so others interested could read it as well.

  2. It has been so long ago that I myself was a 4-Her that I can barely remember my projects, but I mostly got blue ribbons and a few red ones. My projects were baking and sewing for the most part. In our family the worst experience was in 1975 when the 4 of us went on a big trip out West to every state west of the Mississippi. Since we were gone for 31 days (basically the month of July), we missed the local 4-H Fair entirely. Carl and Julie did their projects ahead of time and had their leaders turn them in.
    Julie’s leader was a bit lackadaisical and careless with her projects, to say the least! Her cloverleaf yeast rolls were fine when we left home although they were frozen. By the time the judge saw them a couple of weeks later, not so good. Julie’s sand art got knocked over in the leader’s trunk of her car. Ugh! Not so pretty either. Those white ribbons are an absolute embarrassment to a young girl who was usually a grand champion, reserve champion, or at least a blue ribbon holder. She was 12 at the time and she continued taking 4-H, but her hopes and expectations were greatly dampened after that fateful year. However, the trip to CA, etc. was well worth it.

  3. I was a member of the Dutch Daughers 4-H Club. My leaders were Marjorie Wade and Arlene Abshire. One year in crafts I decided to make a pair of potholders. One was a Maw and one a Paw. (Their heads only). Mother had various iron on decals and I picked some heavy white fabric and ironed Maw & Paw on. As I embroidered them, I envisioned gloating over them at the State Fair. I mean, they were a pain to make, stitch together, turn right side out, etc.
    When I raced to the Huntingburg Shelterhouse to see my results I found a glistening WHITE ribbon! WHAT???
    I just now got Maw & Paw out and here they lay. Both have one front tooth, only. They are pretty adorable some 60 years later. Girls, ask to see them next visit!

  4. Susan,
    I loved reading and recalling some of your 4=H memories. Those were the good old days and you worked so hard on your projects. I know your learned so much doing your projects and now you can pass it on to your sweet and talented daughters,. Love to you !!

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