Couple compete at fair
Entries include gardening, brewing
By Angie Landsverk
This time of year turns into a friendly competition for a local couple.
Cody and Jess Bank are waiting to learn how their Open Class entries fare in this year’s Waupaca County Fair.
“Between us, the competition aspect is fun. It’s something fun to look forward to,” she said.
They live in rural Waupaca and have been entering items in the fair’s Open Class since moving here a few years ago.
Open Class is open to those age 16 and up, said Jenny Scheller, one of the superintendents who oversees the Open Class building at the fair.
“Lots of people plan over the winter what they want to do, what they want to bring,” she said. “You are showcasing what you have enjoyed making.”
Jess and Cody grew up in Rice Lake.
“I was big in 4-H,” he said.
His projects for the fair included chickens, vegetables, woodworking and archery.
“I would ride the rides,” she said.
After college, the high school sweethearts moved to Wyoming and got into the local fair while living in Gillette.
Cody, who has been brewing beer since 2009, was involved in a brewing club.
When the fair started a brewing entry, he started entering the fair.
“Since he was entering, I decided to,” Jess said. “It became a friendly competition about who could collect the most ribbons.”
That was seven years ago, and she remembers entering a lot of items she sewed or knitted.
They both entered some canned items and fresh produce as well.
Sometimes, one of them would be in the kitchen canning one day.
The other one would be in there the next day doing the same thing.
However, Jess has always had the upper hand in getting into the garden first during summer.
She is a teacher and currently getting ready to start her third year teaching English at Waupaca High School, where she is also the head cross country coach.
Cody is the operator at Waupaca’s wastewater treatment plant, and also the president of Badger’s Den Brewing Club.
“The first year out there we did OK,” Jess said of their experience in Wyoming.
Cody said, “We got our feet wet.”
She found the constructive feedback from the judges to be helpful.
“I thought it was kind of fun,” Jess said. “It’s nice to do well, but also to see what everyone else does.”
After living in Wyoming five years, the couple returned to Wisconsin.
Since moving to the area, they have been entering Waupaca’s county fair and in the same categories as they did in Wyoming.
Last year, both of them had a Grand Champion.
Knitting was the category for Jess, while beer brewing was the area for Cody.
In addition, Cody had a Reserve Grand Champion.
And this all happened to take place on his birthday.
However, Jess believes she may have received more ribbons last year.
Finding time for fair projects has been a bit trickier for them this year.
The couple had their first child this year.
Their son Olin is about 3 months old.
“I’m doing more baking stuff this year,” Jess said.
She is also entering canned goods and fresh produce.
Cody brews beers that are light to dark, hoppy to mild – depending on his mood.
He is again entering beer, as well as canned goods and produce.
Open Class judging begins Thursday, Aug. 23, and continues on Friday, Aug. 24, in the Education Building.
Both of them enjoy going through the Open Class area.
“It’s really neat to see how much talent there is in the county,” Jess said.
Cody likes to look at the fresh produce.
The couple plans to expand their current 600-square-foot garden to 1,000 square feet.
“We have different gardening theories and methods we might put to a scientific test next year,” Jess said.
Scheller says it is great to have couples like them involved in the fair.
There are many categories in Open Class.
Some of them are dairy cows, swine, poultry, rabbits, goats, sewing, flowers, crops, vegetables, natural sciences, clothing, cake decorating, canning, photography, woodworking, drawing, ceramics and basketry.
Scheller said the entry fee is $30 for the first 25 items, which includes a fair pass.
“If they don’t want the fair pass, it’s only $15,” she said.
Nursing homes residents get a break on the fee.
“We get a lot of people from King,” Scheller said.
Youth age 15 and under, who are not part of a youth organization recognized by the fair, also have the opportunity to enter Open Class.
This category is called “Just Starting.”
Their $5 fee does not include a pass to the fair.
Scheller has been going to the Waupaca County Fair for more than 40 years.
She was 5 years old when she started going to it with her father, the late Gary Fradrich, who passed away this past April.
“It seems like once you start and participate, you enjoy it and keep coming back,” Scheller said. “It’s the people.”
She said the competition is stiff in Open Class, because not everyone places.
“It’s always nice if a first-time person gets their stuff judged and gets a ribbon. It’s satisfaction, especially if they get a Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion,” Scheller said. “We get a lot of new people in, and they get so close. They can learn from each judge.”