Best of Show entrant squashes the competition

Audrey Fulton of Port Acres is overall Best of Show winner with her OPO squash.

Top gardeners from the Golden Triangle had a chance to show off their produce recently at Central Mall, and the overall winner was a young girl, Audrey Fulton of Port Acres. I checked with master gardeners and the Texas Agri-Life staff, and they don’t remember a youth ever winning Best of Show. Congratulations, Audrey! When the winner returned home after the contest, her mother told the folks at Texas Agri-Life Extension Agency that she headed out to her garden. Why? She had a few new seeds to plant.

Gardeners and their questions had been literally bombarding the Texas Agri-Life Extension Agency office for months but nothing can compare to the questions and comments received during this recent 44th annual Jefferson County Fruit, Herb and Vegetable Show. Previously held in June every year, this year’s show was postponed due to extremely wet conditions this past spring. The Central Mall Merchants Association, Jefferson County Horticulture Committee, area nurserymen, Jefferson County Master Gardeners Association and the Jefferson County office of the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service jointly sponsor this show. This annual event always attracts top-notch gardeners from all over the Golden Triangle to compete for ribbons, prizes and money. It’s a lot of fun to enter and to watch.

The five categories that attracted the “cream-of-the-crop” in homegrown produce were Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, Processed Fruits and Processed Vegetables. The panel of judges had to pick winners from a total of 69 entries, which were judged for quality and uniformity. The judges were tasked with hammering through the picture-perfect entries to search for any speck that might be considered a reason for a lower score.

In case you think the judges just chose this young lady because she is so darned cute, it doesn’t happen like that. Each entrant is given an entrant number. The entries are placed on exhibit tables with that entrant number alone and signs are posted that say things like “Judging is in Progress” and “Don’t Bother the Judges.” The judges with the discerning eyes this year were Pat Tolbert, Paul Eyre, Phyllis Smith and David Oates. Thanks to the judges for volunteering their time for this ultra-popular contest!

The best vegetable, best fruit and best-processed product were selected to win a gorgeous triple streamer rosette and a $25 gift certificate from the Horticulture Committee. The best herb, tomato, youth entry and Best of Show winners also received $25 gift certificates.

Congratulations to all who entered and the winning entries: The Best Fruit award was won by Glynell Winston of Beaumont for her luscious limes. The Best Processed Food was cooked up by Donna Hopkins of Kountze for her “Taste of the Garden.” The Best Herb category was won by Eileen Slater of Beaumont for her beautiful basil. Young Audrey Fulton of Port Acres won the Youth Category with her super OPO squash; Audrey also won Best Vegetable for that squash, as well as Overall Best in Show.