SPOONER — A few years ago, members of the Washburn County Fair Board were looking for ways to jazz up the fairground a bit when Charlotte Thompson presented an idea she’d picked up at a meeting: Why not encourage the public to creatively fill wheelbarrows with live plants and place them around the grounds?
The idea was a hit, and this year, at least eight decorative wheelbarrows greeted fairgoers at entrances to livestock and commercial exhibit buildings and elsewhere. Placed wherever a little splash of color is needed, the fun, festive wheelbarrows are judged on Sunday morning of the fair, held July 26-29 this year, by two local Master Gardeners.
Thompson said there are four categories for entry into the wheelbarrow contest — youth individual, youth group, adult individual and adult group. They must be entered by Thursday evening of the fair. Monetary prizes are awarded to the best ones in each category, with $40 for first place, $30 for second place, $20 for third place and $10 for fourth place.
Judges typically are looking at plant arrangement — no artificial flowers or plants are allowed, and plants should be used to their fullest. Judges also consider color combination; wheelbarrow displays should be eye-catching. Accessories can be used to complement the plants, and there should be no evidence of disease or insects.
“They beautify the grounds,” she said. “People can put them where they want.”
Wheelbarrows are encouraged to follow a theme, and they must be easily transportable so they can be moved elsewhere on the grounds. All wheelbarrows are moved to the stage area for the talent show at the fair, which is also where awards are presented.
Entrants must care for their wheelbarrow throughout the fair by watering the plants and deadheading flowers as needed, “like you would your own plants,” Thompson said.