Photogenic cat earns Grand Champion award for first time entrant

Susan Manzke
Judge Charles Manthey with Susan and her grand champion photo.

Two years ago, I walked through the Outagamie County Fair with my grandchildren. We viewed all the animals and displays. This year, I wished I had paid more attention to the entries. 

For a lark, I’ve been photographing sunrises and sunsets and posting them on my Facebook page. After seeing my photos, my friends said I should enter my work at the Outagamie County Fair. 

In all my years, I never entered anything in any fair, or even considered it. But when people kept egging me on, I finally went online and set up four entries in photography. 

They had a category for sunrise or sunset photos, but I also entered snapshots I took of my cat, Car-E. He’s such a character, over the last months I had gotten some fun pictures of him.

Deciding which photos to print was tough, so I printed more than necessary. Next, I had to choose from them. Car-E would be seen in a 4x6 collection as would my sunsets. My cat also made the cut with an 8x10 entry, as did a sunrise. 

I had read my instructions wrong and arrived at the fair at 10 a.m. instead of Noon. Even walking my entries in was nerve-wracking for me. Luckily the woman staffing the open photography area was there and eased my nerves.

The following morning was judging. I got there early as I wanted to hear what the judge had to say about the good and the bad of the photos entered, not just mine.

Groups of entries were on tables in the building. Stack by stack the judge was given photos to evaluate. The morning started with the 4x6 color photo collections. 

I was amazed by the wonderful work that was put before the judge. He had a tough job. I liked so many I would never be able to choose one above the other.

When category #108: Domestic Animals, came up I held my breath. Five photos of Car-E rested on the table with other entries. The judge shuffled through the selection and kept coming back to Car-E. In the end, my cat photos earned first place. My friend, Kathy, let out a whoop when a #1 was penciled on my entry. The judge said he especially liked seeing the cat peeking out of a paper bag.

Susan’s sunset entry that did not place.

When it came time for category #121: Sunnrise or Sunset, I had my fingers crossed. Kathy was sure I had another winner, but that wasn’t to be. My grouping didn’t even place.

In category #206, Animals, the judge had 8x10 photos before him. When he flipped to Car-E’s closeup, he laughed. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. In the end, the photo of Car-E yawning won first place.

In my last entry, category #207, Nature, my enlargement of a purple-ish sunrise earned fourth place.

After finishing all the photo categories, it came time for the judge to select the best photos.

I watched as my two first-place entries of Car-E were considered. The collection made it through two cuts but didn’t make it to the semi-finals.

My photo of a yawning cat continued to stay in the running. By this time I could hardly breathe. I watched as the last fifteen were considered. Only twelve would get a ribbon.

Susan showing her grandchildren Arianna and Eli her winning photo.

The judge juggled the top ribbons in his hands. He looked back and forth between my cat and a photo of children. When he set the Grand Champion ribbon on my photo he said he wasn’t sure yet. He was still thinking. 

I couldn’t look up as he walked around the table of finalists. My hands were shaking. I was shaking.

Finally, Judge Charles Manthey set out all the ribbons and rapped the table. His choices were final. I had won Grand Champion!

People congratulated me, telling me I could breathe again. I had to tell my family and friends. 

Of course, I’m already thinking of entering next year. I may even try sunsets again—I wonder if Car-E will give me another fun pose. It sure was a good omen when I rescued him as a kitten last year. 

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;