State Fair Blog 2017 & 2018
Notifications, Winner Announcements, and more
I am finally finding time to post photos of this years' competition. They aren't the same quality as I took last year but hoping you will enjoy having them all the same.
I must admit that it was strange checking out the show this year. I liked the freedom to take on more cake orders and they kept me very busy. But, I missed talking with the competitors and seeing the growth of the competitors from one year to the next.
This year I had some favorites:
Dawn Libby stepped out of her normal box and created a modeled mixed medium Seahorse.
Jennifer Hagenauer did a great job displaying her chocolate pieces.
Janet Morse showed a great sugar flower piece.
Jenny Burkely did a great job and is known for creating great cake boards. This time the feet on the board match the googly monster eyes on her cake and the clouds on the other cake match the clouds on the side of the cake.
and lastly, Marlaine Magee continues to improve and literally stretch her wings with a lot of tiny details on her cake. Can you see the hummingbird and frog?
There were several regulars missing from the competition this year and glad to see several new peoples names. The same professional judges returned and I hope they will continue on for years to come. They are a couple of the best judges the NW has to offer!
There were a few things I heard complaints about this year but I want to remind everyone that this is the first year for the new chair and she is not paid so be kind and help her learn. I am hoping that next year they will ask me for help with setting up the acrylic, it was a bit wobbly. I hope to volunteer my time during intake next year to take photos of the entries. Having decent photos (I am not a professional photographer and do my best) of entries is great to have.
I was too busy this year to enter but hoping to enter next year!
Happy caking everyone!
The handbooks should be going live on www.oregonstatefair.org March 30th. If not that day it will be shortly after.
I have the handbook for 2017 posted here. As soon as the staff is able to make the changes for 2018 I will post it here.
GOOD LUCK to entrants this year!
It is with great disappointment that I announce I will not be returning as the Cake Decorating and Confectionery Arts Competition Chair for the 2018 Oregon State Fair. I can no longer justify six or more weeks of volunteering. I took the position as Chair very seriously. We do not have a professional show in Oregon and I really wanted to create that with the Oregon State Fair Cake Decorating and Confectionery Arts Competition. However, taking more than a month off from my business every year has been detrimental to my personal business goals. Every year I have to work doubly hard to recover from being away. Without the means to hire another artist to replace me during that time off I have had to make the decision to stop as Chair.
I am very proud of my work these last four years. I know that I was instrumental to bringing new life into the competition and have given the competition a good start. I wasn't able to realize all of my goals and objectives for the competition but hope that the new chair will continue improving the level of professionalism, the number of entries, and attraction to the competition.
What have I done these last four years you ask?
Accomplishments as Chair
2014 (started in late March):
A reason for listing the above is so that anyone who wants to become the new Chair will see what I did as Chair. Note: 2016 was the year I ran a full-time sugar arts demonstration booth so there are a lot more hours that year.
Would you like to be the new Chair?
There isn't a job description available for the Chair position. To help with your decision I am listing here the basic requirements needed just to run the competition. The biggest consideration is the hours needed through out the year, though to do the bare minimum, 80% of your hours will be the two weeks leading up to the fair through the week following the fair.
With that I move on to my continuing adventure with my family and my business. One day when the Oregon State Fair has the funds to pay their Chairs I would love to go back. Or maybe after I retire, though I am thinking watching sunsets from the top of some mountain is where I will be when I retire.
Best wishes to the new Chair!
The 2017 Handbook can be downloaded from my state fair page. There will be a couple of minor changes for the 2018 Handbook. As soon as I get them done I will replace the 2017 Handbook.
Did you notice the new header photo for this blog?
Hard to miss it really. It is of this years Best of Show entry titled Peace of the Sea by Heather Rooke. Notice the nice black background? The idea of taking professional photos of cake entries is not new but it is new to the Oregon State Fair. I got the idea from attending ICES Convention and the Washington State Sugar Art Show. Both of these events use Stringer Photography of Kentucky to take professional photos of the cake entries.
As a competitor it is really awesome having a professional photo of your entry because it is a depiction of your best work. For me it is moving in the right direction to increase the professionalism of our State Fair competition.
I don't have a budget to bring Sam and Elaine to Oregon from Kentucky or even to hire a local photographer. My focus this year was on increasing the number of entries and the number of prizes so I had no time to find a volunteer photographer. So what do I do instead?
I improvise of course!
At the end of the fair I took a photos of every entry using the black curtains and my own camera. I must apologize though as some of the photos are a little blurry.
I left my tripod at home (40 minute drive away from the fair grounds)! Can you see me shaking my head at myself? Even without the tripod the photos are so much nicer than just whipping down the line of cakes and snapping photos.
I took the time to do a little cropping and a little photoshopping to darken the imperfect backdrop and "voila!" you have some decent photos!
I will be posting a survey soon about what you would like to see for next years competition, what is working, what isn't working, and more. In the meantime, check out this years cakes in the gallery! There are a few galleries broken down by category.
All of my photos on my site are copyrighted with the exception of the State Fair cake Photos. If you are the owner of the cake in the photo download as you like.
I have been trying to convince the State Fair to keep a searchable historical archive of the Creative Living Department online. Currently the information online is only for the current year. Until they decide to do that, I will keep my own archive here on the blog and/or in the gallery. When I retire (or sell) my business I will convert this site to a free site so that the state fair gallery is still available.
I am posting my updated list of winners here. The fair staff are overloaded with work right now so changes there are slower to occur. The Creative Living Department, as far as I have been told, is run on a shoestring budget with a small number of paid staff and a lot of volunteers. There is a lot of work that gets done by a few so please, please, please tell all of the worker bees a big "Thank You!" for all of their hard work! Our department and competition would not exist without them!
As always, if you have any questions about the results or anything else cake related please contact me!
Thank you to everyone who entered this year. To those returning competitors it has been a real joy to watch your growth as artists! I look forward to seeing you all next year!
Congratulations! to everyone
Want to let all of you know that Shaile Socher is living in Salem these days and teaching sugar flower classes at Chemeketa Community College. She is a master at her art and you will get a lot from her class.
She is also on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/sugarflowersbyshaile/
For those who do not know about me or have not read my posts I want to give a brief background of how I became the chair of the competition and the hours I dedicate to it.
I took on the role in 2014 after I competed for a couple of years and was disappointed in my experience. My goal is and always has been to educate competitors and the local community on cake decorating, cake/sugar art competitions and to raise the bar for the state fair competition.
In order to achieve these goals I have to put my business on hold. I average about 200 volunteer hours per year putting it all together. Except the year I did the demo booth during the fair I added another 400 hours that year. That is 2- 3 months of full-time work. I fit it in through out the year with a big bulk before, during, and after the fair.
I have had a lot of success, a few failures, and I have learned a lot along the way. There are things I wish I could do more of, things that I wish I didn't have to do (this being one of them), and I always wish I had more time so I could do just one more thing.
In order to assist me and to make the work more efficient I created a series of spreadsheets for judging and keeping track of winners. The spreadsheets were a huge hit with the judges and did their job perfectly, including helping me find the error that was made. Yeah, SUCCESS!
The acrylic I use was designed to maximize table space for entries and it fits together like a puzzle. A puzzle that takes a bit of pre-planning so that I know where the entries will go and that the acrylic will fit the table configuration. There was a communication failure between myself and the person in charge of the floor plan for the building. So, I was in the position of designing the table layout the morning of intake, a job that takes hours to do correctly.
The failure occurred because I was juggling the tables and acrylic, verifying the entries were entered correctly, and figuring out the placement of the entries. The result was I had to move entries around and the entry number was swapped for two entries that one person entered. Their entries were judged correctly but the entries classes were wrong, therefore those entries scores went against different kinds of cakes. Example the fondant cake scores went against the buttercream cakes and vice versa.
Once I learned of the error I went back through EVERY entry and cross-checked each entry with the judges sheets, including reading comments to verify all of the numbers were correct. This took an entire day to recheck and fix but I was more than confidant I found where the error occurred and why. It isn't something that the entrant did that would have caused them to be disqualified. It was an error that I should have caught at intake and that I take responsibility for.
I fixed the numbers and recalculated the scores. Two entries were affected by the change and I have spoken with them personally. I fixed the problem immediately and I apologized to those involved.
I wrote this blog because some comments have surfaced on FB as a result of the error. I am sure that many of the comments are just friends defending friends but the comments matter. Either way their negative talk of me is untrue and the effect on future entrants can be significant.
It is obvious that they do not know all the work that has to be done or that I am pretty much the only VOLUNTEER that does it. I have some backup by staff but the bulk of it falls on me. Either way their negative talk of me is untrue and the effect on future entrants can be significant.
I would like to offer anyone who is not happy with the competition to do what I did in 2014 and to get involved personally and volunteer your time to help me make the competition better.
Before I go into the numbers I want to tell you about the voting ballot box...I mean cake! Carol Webb, made the first ballot cake for me in 2014. Made with styrofoam rings all glued together to look like a two-tiered cake. She then decorated it with orange and blue ribbon, lots of bling and caulk to pipe the border!
In 2015 Shannon Banky of All4FunCakes revamped the ballot box with a new sign and reapplied the same ribbons. Can't believe I didn't take a photo of it. The sign can be seen on this years cake but I covered the original with this years printout. I added a new ribbon treatment to match this years state fair theme: "Colors of Fun"
Okay, Let's Talk Numbers!
It takes a lot of time to sort through the ballots. We easily get over 500 entries per day. This number can jump to a thousand when we have a volunteer working the area and encouraging people to vote. It can take one person two to three hours to sort through and tally every vote. I do just that, I count every vote! It matters to the competitors and it is the only way I can get a good view of the voting.
Until this year ballot sheets had a comment section so people could leave the cake artist comments about their entry. The votes with comments then went to the competitor. It is a great way to give positive feedback to the competitors. My apologies to the competitors this year. I dropped the ball on ordering ballots and the standard ones did not have a comment section.
Every year I keep track of the numbers so that I can learn from them. Like what days tend to have the most votes or does the number of volunteers that day change the number of votes cast. It is very basic data and nothing I would bet my business on but it is something I can measure and use to help make improvements.
Looking at the numbers over these last four years I noticed that the gap between the top five is decreasing. The first year the Peoples Choice Award was won by 100's of votes. This year the gap between the top finisher and the second was only 150 votes. More telling is that the difference between the 2nd and 5th place finisher is only 78 votes.
This is exciting to me because it helps validate that all the work I have put in to the department and my efforts in putting together a professional competition are paying off. The judges and I noticed this year a marked technical improvement across the board for all the entries. For me it is the best part of this year, it is exciting to see cake artists skills grow every year.
I will blog soon about competition prizes and specifically about the prizes and the businesses who donated this year.
Congratulations to all of the competitors, your hard work really showed this year!
So, drum roll please.
The People's Choice Winner is:
3-D Sculpted Cake
Did you get your email from the Creative Living Department of the Oregon State Fair? The official notice went out this morning...
About this Blog:
This is where I will be posting the latest information on the Oregon State Fair Cake Decorating and Confectionery Arts Competition. As the chair I want to promote the competition, encourage people to enter, and educate everyone interested about cake and confectionery arts.