Competition brings out the best in each of us, or so we have heard. One Fremont County family takes that statement to heart.
Four generations of one family have brought exhibits to the Open Class contest each year at the Fremont County Fair.
Not only do they like to see what others in the county bring to Open Class, they try to see who in the family can bring home the better ribbon.
“We are a pretty competitive family,” said third-generation granddaughter Liz Shirley of Sidney.
Her parents, Doug and Nancy Shirley, have lived in Sidney for 47 years.  Nancy said she has been bringing things to Open Class for about 40 of those years.
“I have always enjoyed Open Class.  I like to challenge myself to bring exhibits each year,” said Nancy.
She said it is “very special to have four generations showing at fair.”
The woman who started it all, Esther Bond, is proud of her family’s tradition.  “I’ve not really thought about it, but it is a good tradition.”
The 2018 Fremont County Fair is July 10-18 at the fairgrounds in Sidney.
Over the years, Esther and Milton, her husband, have taken crochet, antiques and vegetables to Open Class.
Great granddaughter Sarah Daly, a 2018 Sidney High School graduate, said she and her mom, Liz, like to bring similar desserts to Open Class, just to see who scores higher.
“It’s a tradition – a family activity we can all do together,” Sarah said.
Doug, Esther’s son, and Nancy have also competed against each other.
Nancy remembers one year each of them took potatoes to fair and Doug got the better ribbon.
“I didn’t try as hard to win,” said Doug, explaining his potato success that year.  “The girls try too hard,” he laughed.
Esther said having Open Class at the fair is very important.  It’s different than 4-H, which Esther was involved in when she was in high school.
As her children got older, Esther encouraged them to be in 4-H or take items for Open Class.
The younger generations have entered Open Class with specific goals in mind.
Liz remembers all of her children hoping to get enough money from ribbons to buy a funnel cake at the Silver Skylarks food stand.
Sarah said she and her brother Samuel would use the ribbon premium money to purchase school supplies once they were in junior high.
Both Liz and Sarah wouldn’t encourage people to enter Open Class just for the money, but it is a nice perk to have at the end of fair.
Samuel Daly recently completed 7th grade and likes to bring exhibits to fair.  He has brought things for art and woods since he was in kindergarten.
Liz feels it is very important to have her children show in Open Class.  We encourage the younger children to enter what they want.
Liz has brought things to fair since she was a preschooler, much like her daughter Selah, who just completed the 4-year-old preschool in Sidney.
Selah said her favorite part of fair is seeing her friends.  She has brought arts and crafts before, and last year, she was very proud of the red ribbon she received on a Lego kit she built.  She is already working on a Lego drawing for the 2018 fair.
Her dad, Jeff Shirley, Liz’s husband, agrees with her.  “I like to see friends from other towns at fair.  Fair is one time of year I do get to see them and what they have been working on.”
Jeff said Open Class is a way for others, not in 4-H, to show off their talents. One year, Jeff entered the cake decorating contest, bringing cupcakes that looked like a cheeseburger and French fries.  He also likes to bring vegetables.
Another of Liz and Jeff’s children, Sophie, thinks it is all fun.  She feels proud earning ribbons and money on her crafts.
While she isn’t working on anything yet for fair, Sophie, who completed 1st grade this year, still remembers the paper ladybug she brought one year to Open Class.
In the past, Sarah has brought art, culinary (brownies and fudge) and vegetables.  This year, she has been focusing on her photography … taking photos of clouds and storms.  “I use my phone,” she said.  There are so many new apps and advances in cell phone technology to take photos.
Not only does Liz enter items, she has been the arts and crafts superintendent for about seven years.  She helps with check-in days and sets up the display in the Open Class Building.
Nancy, Liz and Sarah are each hoping to win a sweepstakes ribbon in 2018.  Esther has received that honor in the past.
The ladies have entered embroidery, baking, quilts, canning, scrapbooking, flowers and vegetables over the years.
Esther said, “we have 36 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren … many of them have participated in 4-H or Open Class, either in Fremont County or wherever they have landed.”
“We hope to carry on the tradition,” Esther concluded.  Sarah feels confident the tradition will be passed down for years to come in their family.
Exhibits are welcome in several Open Class divisions at fair from needlepoint and other handcrafts, to photographs, vegetables, antiques, flowers, wood carvings, paintings, scrapbooking and culinary.
For more information about the Open Class department of the 2018 Fremont County Fair, please contact the ISU Extension & Outreach office in Sidney at 712-374-2351.
If you would like a fair book with rules about Open Class and the divisions, please pick one up at the Extension Office at 610 Clay Street from 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday-Friday or download one at www.extension.