WEBSTER CITY - It was many years ago when Elaine Scribbins taught home economics in Webster City and worked as 4-H fair superintendent, but on Wednesday she returned to get a taste of the Hamilton County Fair once again.
Scribbins judged products of the kitchen, which included many types of food. From cookies to fudge to canned goods and an ugly cake category, Scribbins got a chance to judge them all.
Her return as judge was an unexpected one. She was invited by Yvonne McCormick, head of consumer horticulture and agricultural education at the ISU Extension Service in Hamilton County. McCormick said Scribbins was a mentor to her during her time at the fair, and invited her back to judge the food entries.
"When I was judging a long time ago, and Yvonne was getting entries in the fair, I saw she had entries in so many things and I had no idea how one person could make that many entries," Scribbins said.
For Scribbins, judging the entries was fairly simple. Armed only with a palate refined from years of home cooking and a bottle of water to cleanse that palate, Scribbins said the look and taste of the items were what she considered when judging.
"A long time ago, when this was a big deal, they had schools for the judges," Scribbins said. "When I was asked to do this, I said, gosh, I don't know what the standards would be for something like canned goods. But I thought Yvonne would help me out and I'd do what I could."
While many of the categories have stayed the same over the years, Scribbins judged a much smaller pool of entries this time. Just a single entry was given to her for the canned good; other categories, like popcorn and cookies, saw few entries. With scant choices, Scribbins chose to err on the positive side when judging the entries.
Scribbins thinks some of the categories with few entries should be eliminated to save time and money.
However, McCormick said that there is a trend with young people who have began to grow their own food.
"If someone sees a category they're interested in on a fair entry form, they might get excited and start making entries," she said.
Scribbins' experience was hardly a negative one. She got the chance to eat some great food, talk with several people who have attended the judging for several years and got to pick out her favorite entry in the ugly cake category.
Whether or not these categories continue in the years to come, Scribbins said she had a good time while they were there.