Picture perfect learning experience at the Outagamie County Fair

Susan Manzke
Susan's photo of new puppy Stella caught the judge's eye, winning her a special merit award.

July 2021 was the first time I entered photos in the open class at a county fair. I was totally surprised and pleased when the enlargement of my cat Car-E yawning won Grand Champion!

When it came time to enroll for the fair this year, I thought hard about it. Winning top in photography last year had to have been a fluke. My entries would probably be complete failures in 2022. So I didn’t enter one. No, I entered 15 classes! That’s the limit.

I knew I shouldn’t have entered the flower category. Last year that had the most entries and many great photos. I didn’t listen to myself and checked flowers on my entry form. Again, flowers had many entries, and all were better than mine. Sadly, my 4x6 color photos didn’t even place.

My five color photos in the church category surprised me. That entry earned me a first place. The crazy thing was how I got those five photos.

The fair was getting close, and I hadn’t taken even one snapshot for the church category which I had entered. One day, I happened to be in Pulaski. My puppy, Stella, had an appointment at the veterinary office. Afterward, I turned north, toward the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church (Assumption BVM Catholic Church) in the center of town.

Not wanting to disturb my dog, I just parked across the street from the church and started snapping pictures. I zoomed in on a couple of neat features of the building. The photography judge, Charles Manthey, noted those closeups when he awarded the collection first place.

Another 4x6 color grouping was dedicated to Domestic Animals. My daughter, Rachel, helped me select the five shots that were taped to my poster board, all were of Barn-E, my cat.

Barn-E is a fun photo subject, too. This grouping earned First place for the Domestic animal category in the open entries.

Again, the judge noted one of my photos in particular. It was of Barn-E drinking from the filtered-water tap at my kitchen sink. My young cat often posed at the faucet for me, but too many times he moved. It had taken me many attempts to get the right expression on Barn-E’s face. Good thing I didn’t have to buy and develop film. Photographing digitally helps cut down on the cost.

Of course, many of my entries didn’t place. Along with flowers, my landscapes (both small and enlargements), nature, and structures were disappointments. My sunrise/sunset entry received a second. My picture story of peony birth and death got a third. My fourth place finishes were winter, summer scenes, and a nature enlargement. (I never got around to taking wildlife photos.)

Finally, my 8x10 enlargement of my puppy Stella received first place in the animal category and extra recognition. At the final lineup, this photo won a merit award ribbon. It wasn’t tops, but it was in the running.

I’m pleased with my results. I always learn a lot when everyone’s photos are judged. It took six hours this year but was well worth it.

Am I thinking about next year? You bet your life I am. I already have one or two photos that could be possible entries for 2023.

This year there were 238 photo entries from 25 Outagamie residents.

I also had another category for one of my alcohol ink tiles in cultural arts. This was awarded a second.

Entries in the 4-H building at the Outagamie County Fair, Seymour, WI.

I left the open category building wanting to see more. I sure hope others would try their hand at an entry next year. The more the merrier.

Even the buildings with 4-H livestock seemed to have fewer animals than other years. Maybe it’s because the number of farms is decreasing, meaning there are fewer families with children in 4-H.

I’m hoping next July we’ll fill all the buildings with entries. That’s what the fair is all about. At least, I think so.

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