09/30/05 — Sweet potato decorators turn spuds into bugs and studs

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Sweet potato decorators turn spuds into bugs and studs

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 30, 2005 1:52 PM

No mashing, slicing, cubing, frying or boiling allowed. And please, no pies. After all, these potatoes have personality.

Judges at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair met Thursday afternoon to evaluate this year's entries into the 4-H Club's Sweet Potato Decorating Contest.

Hand-crafted bright yellow bumble bees, tiny gray mice, a prickly porcupine and one rather large walrus all shared a corner of the Main Exhibit Building while the winners were decided.

Thanks to Gabriel Parker, a 7-year-old 4-Her from Tommy's Road Elementary, Richard Gere even showed up. At least, his starchy likeness did.

"My dad picked it (the face) out," Parker said. "And then I put on the hair, the pants, the hat and everything."

Becky Hudson recognized Parker's creation as she passed the exhibit. She was on her way to check out the original photo entries when she saw her dream date out of the corner of her eye, she said.

"Richard Gere always looks handsome," Mrs. Hudson said. "Even as a potato."

Entries were judged based on originality, attractiveness and neatness. After judges made their final picks, the ribbons were placed on the "sweetest" potatoes.

Marisa Linton, 12, from the T.E.A.C.H. 4-H Club, won first place in the 9-13-year-old division. Her potato was carved into the shape of a worm, painted brown and pierced with a hook that connected long fishing line to a makeshift pole.

Other first place winners included Haley Edwards, 6, who painted her potato red and pink and sprinkled it with glitter. Pink string hung from its underbelly to represent claws, and her crab was complete.

Alec Linton, 9, used shiny red paint to coat his sweet potato sailboat. An anchor charm dangled from one side of the boat while a lifesaver was strapped securely to the other.

A sailor sat beneath the white foam sail that was supported by a wooden mast. Linton's "Sailing into the Wayne County Fair" won Best of Show.

Jimmy Gooden loves to sail and smiled when he learned Linton's tribute to sailboats had won the contest.

"Glad to see another young sailor out there," Gooden said. "That potato looks almost as good as my boat in Wrightsville Beach."

First-prize winners took home $10. Ribbons were awarded to all first- through fourth-place winners in three divisions.

The annual competition is a fair favorite and serves as an educational experience to 4-H'ers who show off their creativity by bringing life to sweet potatoes.