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Washington County Fair: Competitive table-setting one of several 4-H events at fair.

4-H exhibit offers wide variety of creative projects from youth as 2016 Washington County Fair opens Thursday

NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Gaston resident Siera Case is the youngest member of the Patton Valley Livestock club and won a blue ribbon in table setting at a judging before the Washington County Fair. At the words "Washington County Fair," most people think of corndogs and onion rings, carnival games, motorsports and livestock shows.

Competitive table-setting is probably not on the list.

But table settings — along with felted animals, canned goods, origami, hand-sewn skirts, sketches and more — were on display last Saturday, July 23, when hundreds of 4-H youth brought their projects to the Washington County Fairgrounds for pre-fair judging. Their handiwork will be displayed in the Main Exhibit Hall during the fair, Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31.

After watching her sister raise a pig and enter craft projects in the fair last year, Gaston resident and seventh-grader Siera Case joined the Patton Valley Livestock 4-H club, which includes nine youth from the Gaston and Forest Grove areas.

In addition to raising a market hog named Olive, Siera also took on a more delicate art: table setting.

Saturday, she carefully unpacked her placemats, dishes, silverware and menu and set everything up at the fairgrounds, when she earned a blue ribbon for her precision and careful planning.

Siera saw the table settings entered in last year’s fair and was determined to enter her own. Her menu was inspired by meals she’s seen on one of her favorite shows, Master Chef Junior, and included a kale salad with fresh fruit, grilled chicken with quinoa and diced tomatoes, and pistachio macaroons for dessert.

While the 4-Hers don’t actually make the meals for the table-setting contest — baking and cooking are separate competitions — they choose placemats, dishes, menu displays and more to complement the overall idea.

Judges score contestants in five categories.

• The setting fits into an approximately 15-inch by 25-inch space.

• The menu card using correct grammar, is legible from one foot away, is creative and is written in the order of serving.

• Food choices are coordinated for color, style, texture and appearance.

• The items are placed for convenient use.

• The contestant is knowledgeable and confident in explaining their theme to the judge and displays an adequate understanding of food safety.

Siera wasn’t familiar with the old-fashioned art of traditional table setting before she started researching for her 4-H entry, but now she knows a plate should be one inch from the table’s edge, silverware should be two inches from the plate, bowls should be set on dinner plates and napkins should not be placed in cups — she learned the last one Saturday during judging.

Patton Valley Livestock club leader Nancy Lewis said when her family hosts a large formal meal, her kids are the ones who set the table properly, drawing on their 4-H skills.

Hillsboro sisters Madeline and Melinda Moradi also entered the place-setting contest through their club, the Clever Clovers. Fifth-grader Melinda’s theme was “Picnicking with Pandas.”

“Pandas are my favorite animal so I wanted to do something with them,” Melinda said. “I really like it.”

Melinda’s favorite part was picking a theme and seeing it come to fruition.

Madeline’s theme centered on games and used a chess-board pattern for a placemat. She’s entering 23 projects in this year’s fair in everything from art to place-setting to creative writing. She’s also entering the speech competition.

“It’s so hands-on,” said Lewis. Many fairgoers “don’t realize kids made all these wonderful things.”

The Patton Valley club's members all raise at least one large animal to enter in the fair — pigs, goats, cows — along with other things they enjoy such as art projects. Lewis helped found the club when her oldest daughter (now a high school senior) was in fifth grade because she wanted to raise a pig on their family farm.

Club members now meet once a month and talk among themselves often, with younger members receiving mentorship from older ones. Each year the youth wait anxiously for the annual “fair book” to be released with new rules and guidelines, Lewis said, usually picking out something new to try.

“The kids are creating things they have to show to someone besides their mom and dad and they get an honest opinion,” Lewis said. “Every single one of the kids has come back with a better project the next year.”

Those interested in 4-H can contact Pat Willis at the OSU Extension office at 503-821-1120 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..