The winner of the first Open Class Exhibitor of the Year at the Cowley County Fair is Diana Spielman, of Arkansas City. The award is given in memory of longtime fair board member and open class superintendent Larry G. Hittle, who passed away last August. The award is based on overall participation in the Open Class departments of the fair including the number of departments entered, number of entries and placings received. Spielman entered 40 exhibits in the Floral and Grains, Grasses and Farm Products areas, receiving a total of 200 points including 19 blue ribbons and three sweepstakes winners.
Spielman’s history with the fair started when she was old enough to join 4-H. Over the years, when her children and grandchildren were in 4-H, she brought exhibits to the fair. For the last 17 years, it has been an annual affair. Early on, it was entries in the antiques department; now it’s the herbs, vegetables and flowers from her garden.
She has always encouraged others to bring entries to the fair. She remembers one year when she had five 4-Hers, including three boys, in her kitchen baking for the fair. This created a friendly competition when the entries were judged. Friendly competition also comes into play for her when competing against some of her fellow Walnut Valley Farmers’ Market vendors for whose garden products come out on top.
Spielman sees this competition as a driving force for many exhibitors at the fair. She encourages others to start thinking now about what they could bring to contribute to next year’s Cowley County Fair.
“You don’t know if you’re a winner if you don’t try,” she said.
Participation in the fair this year included exhibits from three generations of Spielman family members. She said the fair is sort of an addiction for her. Each year around June 1 she tells herself she’s not taking anything to the fair. By the beginning of July, garden products and flowering plants are looking better, so she makes a list of 60 to 70 possible entries. She then watches that list and crosses things off until the day to enter is here.
Spielman said that receiving this recognition meant more to her than all the ribbons or prize money, as Larry Hittle was an older 4-Her in another club that she looked up to when she was just starting out in 4-H. As the winner, she received a special plaque and a check for $25.