Picking the winners
Franklin County Fair judges have tough job
GREENFIELD — While candy flies through the air, clowns make jokes and marching bands bang on drums, three community members watch with pencils and paper in their hands at the grandstand at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.
The three female volunteers have the meticulous job of judging parade floats and marchers for the Thursday night parade kickoff to the four-day annual Franklin County Fair.
This year, the county celebrates its 165th fair.
And as the 87 floats filed through the 2.5 miles of downtown Greenfield from Federal Street onto Main Street then toward Wisdom Way, they had to show the parade committee 165 reasons to go to the county fair.
Each year three community members are awarded the responsibility of judging the parade entries. Parade director Michael Nelson organizes the parade route and order.
Armed with a rubric, the volunteer judges tick off criteria the floats have to meet to get a first-, second- or third-place ribbon.
The floats are judged on a 1-to-5 scale on three standards — creativity, use of theme and spirit and enthusiasm. The floats are broken up into six judging categories — performing arts, antique car, agricultural, band, human service and miscellaneous. There is a winner in each category.
The three judges take their job seriously.
“You can’t take it lightly,” said Kathleen Carr, who has volunteered on the parade committee for four to five years. “People put a lot of effort in.”
The two other judges declined to be named, not wanting to be known for their role in the parade contest.
It takes the three community members three hours to judge the floats, including the parade time and evaluation afterward. Though volunteers, they work for candy, Carr joked.
“These are really judged. We follow the guidelines,” said Carr.
Carr said the judges are fair in their assessments.
“It’s truly a democratic way of getting a winner,” Carr said. “Everyone has an equal shot.”
Nearly an hour after the parade kickoff at the Greenfield Middle School, the county parade marched toward the grandstand, where the judges sat underneath a white tent holding pens and wearing smiles.
Leading the parade was this year’s Grand Marshal Paul Calcari, who rode up in a white Toyota with Scott Kuzmeskus, the fair chairman of attractions and entertainment.
Calcari, the beloved longtime Greenfield High School band instructor, retired this year from the school.
After 30 years of marching in the parade, Calcari got to watch the show for the first time on the sideline.
“It was a lot easier climbing the last hill in a car than marching in the band,” Calcari laughed. “One of the best things is being able to see the parade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.”
Being named the grand marshal — whom the parade honors — was unexpected by Calcari.
“It’s a great honor,” Calcari said.
Behind him was a long line of floats.
As the judges watched, they looked for who closely followed the theme.
While the Tumbling Tigers Gymnastic Team flipped their way onto the fairgrounds, Greenfield Savings Bank dropped off 165 pieces of candy on the judges’ table.
The Franklin County Technical School Band marched to a beat. With dark sunglasses, the drum line beat their drums and an electric guitar strummed loudly, surprising parade watchers and impressing the judges.
“They look too cool for school,” Carr laughed.
The Body Shoppe listed 165 and more calories for the traditional fair foods of fried dough and cotton candy.
The Greenfield Public Library staff turned into magical creatures while a giant red dragon flung its head toward the judges.
By 8 p.m., the parade trailed off and the judges put their heads together.
“Everyone is here to have a good time,” said Carr. “They put their hearts into it. Though not as many followed the theme, they are still trying to have fun.”
2. Peter Laplante
3. Richard Sanders
1. Farren Care Center
2. Faith Baptist Church
3. Greenfield Public Library
1. And Sew it Goes
2. Gilmore and Farrell Insurance
3. Relay For Life team Dick’s Angels
1. Bit of Luck 4-H
2. Franklin County 4-H
3. Pandora Pony Pals
2. North County Line Dancers
3. Arena Civic Theatre
1. Pioneer High School
2. Greenfield High School
3.Franklin County Technical School