Table Setting Contest | Fair Entry Poem


Many fairs across the USA have a table setting competition which may be tied to the theme of the fair, holidays, celebrations or other events.

Contestants may be required to provide a suitable menu, a centerpiece, and place settings for one to four people.

The requirements are varied, but the competition is always fiercely friendly.

A Doggerel Ode to County Fair Table-Setting Contests

Everything's perfect and looking just great.


Don't shock your dear guests with a mere paper plate.


We're setting the table with infinite care,
To win a blue ribbon at our county fair.

Other cups and saucers at the fair.
Other cups and saucers at the fair.

Observing a season, or Christmas, or more,


a birthday, a love feast, for one you adore,


The colors do coordinate, the flowers match the platters.


Decorations scream the theme to show what really matters.


Blue Ribbon bunnies.
Blue Ribbon bunnies.

Placing each piece to make an impression,


That pleases the judges or feeds an obsession


with pressed table linens and candles alight,


it all comes together-- all perfectly right.

Second place with jams and goodies in the background.
Second place with jams and goodies in the background.


You've mastered the art of laying a fork


beside proper plates, for fish or for pork.


With special utensils for each special task


which one we're to use, we never will ask.

Lost in the rush of modern days,


Our day-to-day tables in so many ways,


Resemble these samples , down to the letter.


Do not tell the judges our home ones are better.


They might come around and discover our fake out,


and greasy old cartons from Pop's Pizza takeout.


Third place.
Third place.
Dining in the swamp.
Dining in the swamp.
Blue glass.
Blue glass.

Careful position of each cup and tumbler,

is vexing indeed for the everyday bumbler.

Glimmering crystal or faceted glasses
reflect the ideals of the elegant classes,
who dined with all their matching dishes
on truffles and roast and various fishes.

It brings up thoughts within our minds


of sumptuous meals, of various kinds


when royalty, dressed in rare jewels and sables,


had elegant servants to set their grand tables.


They came down to dine with crowns on their heads


while the elegant servants turned down their beds.

     *     *     *     *     *

--Photos by R. Frank, Mariposa County Fair, 2010


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77 comments

mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago

I remember these from the county and state fair competitions in Kansas when I was growing up. My sister won the purple ribbon for her wheat themed place setting and also discovered that she was allergic to the goldenrod bouquet she picked for the center. She had to go to E.R. because her face swelled like a balloon and she couldn't show her dairy cow because she was so sick! So now place setting competitions bring a picture of her in agony into my head! But also I've never had a set of Christmas dishes because I couldn't justify having a whole set just for the Christmas holidays, but I've always envied the people I know who do. Nowadays, since I am reducing possesions I don't even own any china or silverware and I even got rid of my Christmas decorations! blasphemy, huh!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

What a painful experience for your sis-- nothing was 'fair' about that. I always thought it would be fun to try, but I would have to find something interesting at a yard sale or second hand store for the setting.

Getting rid of stuff is a good thing, a lot of people are starting to downsize to essentials.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Rochelle-this took me back to my boarding school's annual table setting competitions. Castilleja School is in Palo Alto-founded by David Starr Jordan to groom young ladies for their inevitable tenure at Stanford-and this event was most serious in the early 70's. I was a boarder and could never quite understand the hoopla.

I did like the swamp entry at your fair, however!


Specialk3749 profile image

Specialk3749 6 years ago from Michigan

My daughter has done this competition at our fair a couple of years ago. She had planned on doing it again this year, but there were too many other things to do and she didn't get it done. She does plan on using the materials for next year!

One of the things our fair looks for when doing these, are that the table cloths and napkins are sewn by the child not purchased.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

lorlie6-- Really? David Starr Jordan founded schools? I thought he was a biologist or a botanist or something, I only know the name because I went to DSJ high school in Long Beach-- though named for him, I don't think he founded this one.

The swamp table did not seem to have any silverware-- maybe the menu was finger foods.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

specialk3749-- Not a lot of people enter this category. I suppose one reason is that it requires a lot of attention to the last minute details in pulling it all together.

If you enter a painting, for instance, it's just a matter hanging it on the wall.


Alison Graham profile image

Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

Rochelle, I just loved this hub! Bookmarked to re-read. I have never seen a table setting competition at any of our UK Shows or Fairs I have been to but I have done a fair bit of it setting up photo shoots for the linen firm I used to work for so I have a special interest in the napkin folds on display!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

They are quite varied, and I don't know details of the judging criteria. I personally liked the one with the red goblet and the dainty rosebud clasped in the napkin ring.

The winning one had too many rabbits on the table for my taste, although the pink and yellow went together surprisingly well. Thanks for commenting, Alison.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I loved you hub and enjoyed reading it.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Hello -- Hello,hello. Thanks. I'm glad you read and enjoyed.


Jane@CM profile image

Jane@CM 6 years ago

Rochelle, this is awesome. The place settings are so fun!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Jane at CM. I have always found them strangely fascinating. I do like to set a pretty table, but mine are usually relatively simple. The food is usually the best part of the decoration.


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Great hub. I have never heard of this


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Granny's House. You don't have fairs in your state? These are usually displayed near the food entries.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

This was so cool!!! The table settings all looked so great, so festive! Thanks for a great hub, Rochelle.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Paradise7. There weren't a lot of entries in the past few years. A lot of people think about it, I'm sure, but it takes a lot of thought to pull it together -- even for one setting.


Lee Ann Allen 6 years ago

The green table linen with yellow setting was my entry. I've entered before; it's always fun. And I did have a menu but it was not here when the "doors opened." They moved my exhibit from where I set it up, so guess it got lost in the process. Anyone have this dish pattern? It belongs to my mom, a wedding gift in 1956.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for commenting, Lee Ann. I wish I had written the names down. That was a lovely setting. The green cloth really showed it off well.


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

As an agriculture area, we certainly have county fairs with food, canning,livestock, etc. I have never heard of a table setting contest. looks like fun! The blue glass is my favorite.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Maybe you need to suggest it to your local fair board-- show them some photos (and start working on your ideas). It fits in well with "home arts" Our fair also has a similar category for kids where less elegant components including paper plates can be used.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

Rochelle...I am not allowed to attend these competitions as I am prone to breakage. Interesting stuff...all those forks! That's the kind of stuff that really brings out the stupid in us guys as we never had training when we were young! Thanks for sharing in verse no less! WB


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

The 'extra' silverware looks nice, but also means more to clean up. One fork per person is fine most of the time. I think the extras were originally put out there just to show that you had a lot of it.

Thanks for looking in Wayne brown.


loriamoore 6 years ago

How interesting. I don't have a "Martha Stewart" bone in my body!!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, loriamoore. "It's a good thing." Didn't she say that all the time?


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I have never seen a table setting contest so thanks for the introduction. Looks like it would be fun to view. Thanks for your pictures and I thought that your poetry telling about it was really great to read along-side the photos. You put a lot of effort into this hub and it shows.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Peggy W. Actually this was a quickie and it didn't feel like a lot of effort. It might have been if I had tracked down some of the contestants and gotten comments, or really gotten into some of the judging criteria etc. I have two or three other unpublished hubs that I have put more effort into-- and they are not finished yet.

I like your pretty plates in the quinoa hub-- you would probably be good at this kind of contest.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

I want the blue glass! Beautiful!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

It was very pretty-- I had a hard time getting the photo angle I wanted on that because of distracting backgrounds (and I was being rushed by someone who wasn't interested). Thanks for commenting, GmaGoldie.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I love this Hub. I read it shortly after you published it, but got distracted with something or other....Yet, the images remained in my mind and gave me a continuing warm chuckle. Like Peggy, I've never seen such a contest, so your super photos planted a seed, and ever since then, I've been a lot more conscious about what my table looks like and have been rooting around a bit for pieces stored away and forgotten. Another medium of expression! I'm looking forward to Halloween dinner. The table setting is going to include spiders.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Sallys Trove-- Glad you found it fun.


KatMalone profile image

KatMalone 6 years ago

Such beautiful table settings. And such a fun competition. I love doing fun settings myself.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

They do this every year at our fair-- I always enjoy seeing them. It's a good way to get new ideas. Thanks for commenting, KatMalone.


dinesh c bhatt profile image

dinesh c bhatt 6 years ago from India (Noida)

Hi,

Rochelle Frank

Beautiful, Great hub......!!!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Glad you liked it, dinesh c bhatt.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, this is great! I had never heard of it before, maybe they should start doing this over here, what a good idea, thanks nell


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I'm surprised that a lot of people have not seen this before. Maybe some of you can promote the start of a similar contest at your own local fair.

Thanks for commenting, Nell Rose!


mimind profile image

mimind 6 years ago from THE UNITED STATES

I would so lose at this I learned the proper way even the fancy dinner setting with multiple forks etc. But I keep it casual I just put out what I need to eat on a napkin :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I'm mostly casual in my 'settings' too. This particular contest isn't necessarily for the proper and fancy-- I've even seen hobo or down-on-the-ranch settings. Innovation seems to be valued above all else-- it has to look "inviting",but each contest may have different rules and standards. Thanks for your comment.


Lyria profile image

Lyria 6 years ago

Ooooo I love that setting with the blue glass. Beautiful! I think table settings are so elegant and really add to the emotional part of the meal. Enjoyed the hub!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Yes, very pretty. All of them had something special. Thanks for your kind comment, Lyria.


wilsontom profile image

wilsontom 6 years ago from new delhi

this is really a good. love reading this hub.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Glad you enjoyed it.


bettybarnesb profile image

bettybarnesb 5 years ago from Bartlett, TN

You are very creative. Always happy to see gifted people put their talents to work for them.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

It seems that the county Fair inspires a lot of creativity. Thanks for commenting, bettybarnesb.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Hi Rochelle,

What a charming ode to the diminishing art of table setting. Everything these days is just plonked down it seems. That's if anybody bothers to sit at the table...


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

You bring up a very good pint, Jane. Perhaps part of the solution is to make the table a little more special, again.

Sure, it's more work, but it might be worth it if it creates a new enjoyable experience for family togetherness. Busy families might not have time to do it every night, but adding a special touch-- delegating one family member to create a nice setting, or even doing it a couple times a week might have unseen benefits.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Rochelle I agree...at the risk of sounding high-fallutin' there is something enriching about sitting down at the table, especially one that's had a bit of love and attention put into it. It's not THAT time-consumimg really and of course it doesn't have to be formal. You've inspired this reader, anyway.

Cheers


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy ,healthy, and prosperous New Year. Great ode with a table set with humour and delight. Cheers.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I appreciate your appreciation, sligobay. This is the season to go 'all out' in settings. That can be fun, but unless I'm expecting a moderate tableful of guests-- 6 to 10 -- I try for a casual serving most of the time.


esatchel profile image

esatchel 5 years ago from Kentucky

I love a beautiful table. I'll have to check, I'm not sure my state as table setting, but if it does, I will certainly check it out next August. Thank you for this *awesome* Hub! Ann


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Ann. Every time I see these, I think about doing it-- but it does take some preparation in getting all the pieces together.


lanealanea profile image

lanealanea 5 years ago from Orange County, California

Remarkable ideas!!! How cool!! Thanks!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Glad you enjoyed it, lanealanea .


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

Loved the "blue glass" table setting. Ah, it does bring us back to a more leisurely and gracious era. Thank you!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Yes, it was very pretty. I'm wondering how it would look with food on it. The menu might have to be planned with color in mind.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

I'm not a huge fan of foofy table settings, but I loved your perfect meter. Great job!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks,Stan. I may have missed my calling. I could have been a meter maid.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

LOL!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

I've heard about this but never actually saw one. It might be fun to participate in this type of competition, but unfortunately table setting is not my expertise. Nice hub, Rochelle. Oh and the pics are also lovely. :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Om Paramapoonya, and I do like your smoothie brreakfast -- no table-setting!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

It would be fun to participate in such a competition! Who knew?! Neat hub!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I'm always inspired when I see these. Then I realize that there are a lot of details to bring together. Maybe, someday.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Though I've never seen any of these tables at our local state fair, I've seen some at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Florists go whole hog in creating artistic displays on tables and, believe me, they are something to see. One featured a mini garden on a table for 2. You sat at each side of the table, sort of looking down a small 'garden path.' Not really practical or even doable, but very cool.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

That idea must have come to someone in a dream. It sounds like you wouldn't even have to have food with that kind of a setting. Thanks for commenting, Dolores.


Becky 5 years ago

Everyone else commented on the settings and I was looking at the dishes. Most of those were antique, by the way. The blue that everyone was commenting was Depression Glass, Swirl pattern, They also had other colors. The pink was pretty, I have some reproduction, which are also collectable.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

You are probably right, Becky. I think a lot of people who do this shop the yard sales and consignment shops just to find attractive pieces they can use for this. It takes an artistic eye.


Table setting 5 years ago

Thank you for making the effort to line this all out for us. This kind of post ended up being very useful if you ask me.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for your interest, Table setting.


Web design Brisbane 5 years ago

Table setting is a key factor for all those who wants their meal at very good situation.The contents are masterwork. you have performed a wonderful job on this subject!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for the comment, web design. It makes the food taste better, too.


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Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, fat freeze. Though your praise is excessive, and perhaps facetious, I am glad if it helped you in some way.


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Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

I so enjoyed this! I love to see beautiful table settings but am not much on actually attempting this myself, despite having lots of attractive china. I once saw a fantastic table setting at the Philadelphia Flower Show that made the table look like a country meadow. Diners would peer at one another through a sort of path through wild flowers - it was totally crazy.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Delores. Some of the very creative ones get a little carried away-- and might be a little impractical, but they are fun to look at. I took a few more pictures this year-- maybe I'll add a couple more.


OhMe profile image

OhMe 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

I love to see pretty table settings. Enjoyed this visit. We have a Spring Brunch fundraiser where the table sponsors decorate their own table for their guests. It always amazes me how creative some people are.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I enjoy seeing them, too. Thanks for looking in.

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