When people think of the Jackson County Fair — rides, food and animals usually come to mind.
But in the Horticulture Building, the focus is on flowers, vegetables and other homegrown projects.
On Saturday morning, crowds of adults and children made their way to the fairgrounds just east of Brownstown. They turned in a wide variety of produce, grains, flower arrangements, plants, vegetable creations and even scarecrows for judging in the building between the Family Arts Building and 4-H Building on the south side of the fairgrounds.
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All projects will remain up for public viewing throughout the week.
Most people involved with horticulture said they like to be a part of the fair and share their interest in gardening with others.
LeeAnn Evans of Freetown is a regular in the Horticulture Building.
With her knowledge and skill of growing flowers, she not only enters her own work, but spends time working in the building answering questions and talking to people about her passion.
“I just love flowers and gardening and I see it as a teaching tool,” she said of volunteering. “And I love to see what other people come up with.”
This year, she had multiple entries, including an eye-catching floral arrangement she created especially for the Indiana bicentennial theme category.
“All the flowers had to be blue and gold, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” she said.
She also entered a vase full of native Indiana wildflowers, all of which she collected in the fields surrounding her home.
“It’s just whatever looks good in the garden or out in nature,” she said. “And it has to fulfill the requirements.”
Blue ribbon winners aren’t necessarily the biggest, the brightest colored or the prettiest entries, she added.
“There are certain rules to follow and qualities you should be looking for in vegetables and flowers,” she said. “When you see a blue ribbon, you know that entry does that.”
Since she likes to enter theme projects, she also turned in a market basket.
“You have to pick at least five different vegetables and arrange and display them in a basket,” she said. “I have a lot of fun with it.”
This year was the first time there has been a category for homemade maple syrup, so Evans convinced her neighbor, Phil Hanner, to let her enter a bottle for him.
“We’ve always had a category for honey, so it was high time to get maple syrup in too,” Evans said. “There’s quite a few people around here that make it and deserve to be recognized.”
Next door to the Horticulture Building, 4-H members lined up to have their gardening and floriculture projects judged too.
Caroline Thompson, 11, of Cortland was excited to get a blue ribbon designation for her potatoes from judge Angela Kelley of Washington County.
Demonstrating quite the green thumb, Thompson also grew carrots, onions, pumpkins, beans and watermelon this year for judging.
“I’ve done gardening projects since I was in Mini 4-H,” Thompson said. “I like all the fresh produce and being able to grow it myself.”
Kelley said she was impressed that Thompson already had a good pumpkin and ripe watermelon from her garden.
“They both look really good,” Kelley said.
Thompson’s favorite vegetable to grow is onions she said.
“They’re really easy,” she said. “You don’t have to do much to them.”
The biggest lesson she’s learned from gardening is not to hurry and not to give up.
“You have to be patient,” she said. “Sometimes they turn out really good, sometimes they don’t.”
Whatever produce doesn’t make it to the fair, she and her family get to eat at home, she said.