The Alameda County Fair was canceled this year due to the coronavirus but its beloved competitions were still held, garnering more than 4,000 entries in categories from stitching to baked bread to fine arts.
"We had a bigger turnout than we were expecting for a virtual show," said Tiffany Burrow-Loushin, head of the arts competition. "We bring in 18,000 entries on average, usually across 5,000 exhibitors. This year we would have been happy with 500 entries."
Past years already have had a virtual component for the fine arts show, she explained, which is so popular that only the prejudged winners are exhibited at the annual fair. Now all the entries can be viewed online.
Fair staff had to find the best way to have each category judged, Burrow-Loushin said.
"With baked goods, we were struggling at first and thought we might just remove it," she recalled. "But we get a lot of entries so we said let's do something."
They finally decided that each entry would require two photos, one of the whole product and another after it was sliced.
"That way the judges could see the outside as well as the inside," Burrow-Loushin said.
For fiber arts, a second photo also was requested, a closeup of the stitching.
Some contestants for baked goods enter every year, Burrow-Loushin noted, as do some artists, and most adapted easily to the new online process.
"We thought more folks would have problems with technology on the site but they had very little," she said. "It was confusing in our fine arts because some had entered prior to it becoming virtual."
Those early entrants were refunded their fees because this year's online competition was free.
"All in all, we're just trying to make the best of our current situation," Burrow-Loushin said. "We found a way to stay connected with everyone."
The 600 entry divisions were narrowed down, some were combined, and others were added for a total of 77 for this year's virtual show.
New pandemic-related categories included Shelter in Place for self-portraits and poetry. Photography added Masks as well as Yard Art and Family Game Night.
"Yard Art and Family Game Night were new categories this year that we felt were in line with shelter-in-place and activities that were increasing," Burrow-Loushin said.
"We didn't award any ribbons or money this year, just accolades," she added.
Livestock is always popular, with normally more than 300 animals arriving for judging, Burrow-Loushin said. This year entries were made using video, and the livestock auction will be held online July 12, although fair staff is hoping to have "a modified live component." Animals will be brought in for a veterinarian check before they are released to the highest bidders.
To view all the entries and lists of winners and learn more about the livestock auction, go to AlamedaCountyFair.com and look under "events," then "2020 Fair."