Friday, August 14th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County Fair exposes local photo bugs
Home, Art, Domestic category awash with photography entries
  Babies, sunsets, corn fields.
Picture an image and it's likely on display somewhere in the community center at the Mercer County Fairgrounds.
Photography - particularly the digital variety - is hands-down the most entered category in the Home, Art, Domestic competition at the county fair, which begins today in Celina.
"It's probably been the most popular category for the last four to five years," says Larry Bowers, who along with Gary and Elaine Dietsch are superintendents for the competition.
It's no wonder interest in photography has grown. More than half the U.S. population now owns a digital camera, according to Consumer Reports.
Bowers, who also serves on the fair board, recalls when a few magazine racks could hold the small number of photographs submitted for competition by a few amateur and semi-professional shutterbugs. Not anymore, he adds.
Playing second fiddle to the photography category again this year are paintings, drawings, quilts, afghans, woodcrafts, needlepoint and embroidered pillow cases, to name a few.
As the submission deadline drew to a close Thursday afternoon, volunteers were nearly buried beneath stacks of 8-by-10-inch plastic sleeves stuffed with photos. The superintendents and other volunteers often work into the night and arrive at the fairgrounds bright and early on opening day to finish hanging the works of art.
This year they received 424 photos for competition - about 100 more than last year.
Organizers knew immediately that judging, which was set to take place at 10 a.m. today, would be tough. When the judge enters the blue building near the front gate, the door is locked and remains that way until the colorful ribbons are distributed to the top winners.
"As soon as the judging is over, people run in to see what they got," Bowers says with a laugh. "They can't wait."
Ribbons aren't the only rewards; cash prizes from $1 to $4 are given to top winners in each category and division. But the silky first-place ribbons appear to bring the most smiles, the men say.
"People here take a lot of pride in their work," Gary Dietsch says.
And that's why the community center is monitored closely during fair week. Volunteers from an area church take shifts inside the air-conditioned room, Dietsch says.
"There's never been a problem. Of course, the sheriff's office is at the other end," Bowers says with a grin.
Bowers and Dietsch believe the Home, Art and Domestic department and others represent the basics of the fair, the foundation on which it was created. People showing off their talents, their homegrown vegetables, their best-recipe pies, their cows and goats, that's what the fair's all about, they say.
"That's how the fair got started more than 150 years ago. And it's still based on that grassroots principal," Bowers says.
The fair opens each day at 8 a.m. and continues through Thursday.

At the fair:
Today is opening day
5 p.m. - Crowning of equine king and queen, prince and princess, goat queen, Adrian DeBrosse Arena
6 p.m. - Crowning of pork queen, junior fair tent
6:30 p.m. - Cakes, pies and produce auction, entertainment tent
7 p.m. - Demo derby and Figure 8 race, grandstand
7:30 p.m. - Junior Fair king and queen pageant, junior fair tent
8 p.m. - Exploit, beer garden
Saturday
8 a.m. - Gates open
10 a.m. - Baby contest (0-3 months), entertainment tent
11 a.m. - Baby contest (4-8 months), entertainment tent
Noon - Talent show, junior fair tent
1 p.m. - Rides and games open
1 p.m. - Baby contest (9-12 Months), entertainment tent
1-4 p.m. - Safety show
2 p.m. - Center Stage Performing Arts Academy demonstration, junior fair tent
2 p.m. - Baby contest (13-18 Months), entertainment tent
2:30 p.m. - 11th Annual Pie Contest, auction at 4 p.m., junior fair tent
6 p.m. - Wee Princess (ages 2-3), Wee Miss (ages 4-5), Tiny Miss (ages 6-7), Little Miss (ages 8-9), Little Mister (ages 2-5), entertainment tent
7 p.m. - NTPA Truck & Tractor Pull, grandstand
8 p.m. - Midnight Special, beer garden
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• Attorneys seek to overturn decision denying new trial
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