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Who are you to judge?

Ali Patton, a member of the Lucky Star 4-H Club, entered a quilted pillow in the non-garment category and met with 4-H Judge Kaye Zebarth July 30 for a conference judging session. She received an honorable mention award for her project. (photo by Amy Chaffins)1 / 3
Monday was 4-H Entry Day and there were dozens of 4-H'ers at the Exhibit Building waiting for their turn to have their project judged. (Echo Press file photo)2 / 3
Monday was 4-H Entry Day and there were dozens of 4-H'ers at the Exhibit Building waiting for their turn to have their project judged.3 / 3

Douglas County kids work on projects all summer and, come county fair time, it's time to face the judges.

Who are the people that decide a blue ribbon goes to Johnny and a red ribbon goes to Sue?

They're people like Kaye Zebarth of Brandon. She helped judge this year's 4-H clothing and textiles category.

"I was a 4-H'er all my life and I always wanted to be judge," she said. "My mom was a judge for years and years. I always thought that would be fun to do."

Zebarth taught home economics in the Buffalo school district for several years and recently retired from her job at JoAnn's, a crafts and fabrics store. She got to know some of the local 4-H educators and now, she does some judging for the 4-H clothing and textiles entries in Douglas, Stearns, Pope and Otter Tail counties.

In Douglas County, July 30 was conference judging day for 4-H'ers in grades 6-8 who entered items in the clothing, non-clothing, clothes-you-buy and clothes-you-make categories.

"Over the years, there were fewer and fewer garments entered, but that seems to be coming back a little bit. There's lots more quilting and a lot of creative ideas, like recycling materials," Zebarth said.

Judging 4-H entries has evolved to become more than an adult standing over a project with a clipboard.

The 4-H'ers take part in conference judging, which involves a 4-H'er presenting their project to an adult, explaining their process and answering questions. Equal importance is placed on the exhibit and on the interview. Both components are worth 50 percent toward ribbon placing.

"Kids are pretty anxious to please, I think, and they're willing to share what they've learned and they'll ask questions when they want to learn about something," she said.

In one day of judging, Zebarth evaluated projects from 35 to 40 4-H'ers.

Like Ali Patton, a member of the Lucky Star 4-H Club. Patton entered a quilted pillow in the non-garment category.

During her conference judging session with Zebarth, Patton said she has done some sewing in school, but she usually sews with her grandmother.

Zebarth asked what Patton learned through the process.

Patton said, "It's hard getting the corners even."

Zebarth replied, "Well, if you're getting ready to do more quilting, that's the thing to watch. You did a nice job, a really nice job."

When asked what she hopes the kids walk away with after experiencing conference judging, she said, "As long as they can explain why they did something, I just hope that they get a good feeling in wanting to sew more or explore different projects a little more.

"There's more than one way to do things and if you can explain to me why you did it that way, and it still looks like it's going to be useful, then, go for it," Zebarth said. "Even the judges are different because we all come from different backgrounds. I'd like to see more and see them try more things."

For example, she said some of the projects that stood out over the years are when a 4-H'er has taken it upon themselves to write their own pattern.

"One girl, last year, designed her own dress using a difficult fabric. It was really edgy. Her skills weren't real great and there were some things that were a little lacking, but the fact that she took that on and tried it, that's what you hope they get out of it, the confidence to try something new. When you can see that spark of creativity, that's really good," Zebarth said.

"I'm always honored that somebody values my opinion, that they think I make good decisions and use good judgement," she added. "I'm always honored when someone asks me to come in and judge."

What 4-H judges evaluate on clothing and textile projects:

--Used necessary materials and tools

--Can explain how directions were followed

--Understands pressing techniques

--Used appropriate seam finishes

--Chose project that taught new or advanced techniques

--Exhibit shows attractively

What do those ribbons mean?

--A modified Danish System (blue/red/white ribbon system where everyone receives a ribbon) is used for 4-H judging. Exhibits can earn a first group - Blue; second group - Red; or third group - White place ribbon. Blues may then be considered for Grand and Reserve ribbons or in some counties, purple or special merit.

--Cloverbuds (youth in grades K-3) are not judged on a competitive basis. All Cloverbuds receive the same ribbon.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133