Blue Ribbons Galore at the DIY Design Studio

Looking for old-school Fair fun? Look no further than the DIY Design Studio, home to dozens of competitions. From photography to knitting to baking, this is the place where our most creative guests can show off their talents (and compete for a coveted blue ribbon!)

la county fair home arts Many competition entries are submitted beforehand; participants don’t know who won until they walk through our doors and see their work on display (a long-time Fair tradition!)

No matter how many times we’ve walked through the DIY Design Studio, we’re always impressed with the level of care participants put into their projects.

Minor details — the smallest rose on a cake, the finishing touch on a tablescaping piece, the perfect color on a crotchet blanket — are distinct reminders that the home arts are truly alive and well in our community.

la county fair home arts Guests check out the tablescaping entries on display

Fairplex CEO & President Miguel Santana takes a look at our culinary competition winners so far

In addition to the entries that have already been judged, new blue ribbons are being awarded every single day in our live culinary competitions!

Iron Chef and Chopped-like competitions, where guests have to create dishes on the spot with a secret (Fair-themed) ingredient, and traditional contests like the grilled cheese and salsa competitions are held on a weekly basis.

The first, second and third place winners have their picture taken and placed on our board in the competitions arena (pictured in the photo above).

To learn more about the DIY Design Studio competitions, visit us at!

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Do You Know Chocolate? Ghirardelli Wants You!

 “I never met a chocolate I didn’t like.” – Deanna Troi, Star Trek: Next Generation

Me, either. Chocolate is the perfect everything. Like a friend, it consoles. Like fireworks, it ignites nostalgia and patriotism. Like my own personal booster club, it tells me, “Go,Fair-ey Blogster. You can do it!”. It gets me through life’s bittersweet moments – and the semi-sweet ones, too. And it’s the perfect baking companion. Ghirardelli Chocolate and the L.A. County Fair want you to use chocolate’s best attributes to make an amazing dessert for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship.

Chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate … well, fill in the blank. Whatever your chocolate specialty is, sign up to win a blue ribbon and show the world you know chocolate better than they do.

Ghirardelli is celebrating its 160th anniversary and the Fair its 90th. What a great way for you to partake in these celebrations – by entering your devilishly delicious dessert. Deadline for entries is Aug. 3. Focus on flavor, creativity and an easy-to-follow recipe. And you must feature a Ghirardelli premium baking product. Make it fun, festive and eye-catching.

Ghirardelli also welcomes you to share the tale behind your treat. Was the recipe passed down through generations (you know, a chip off the ol’ block?)? Is it a new twist on a classic? What “wows” your friends and family about it? Your thoughts, stories and memories are all welcome. Check out the Fair’s culinary competitions page for entry info and rules & regs. The contest is Sept. 9. First place also wins $150. But, really, is that better than knowing you rule when it comes to chocolate desserts? Well, maybe. Cuz then you can go buy more … chocolate!

And to get your chocolatey thought process rolling, Ghirardelli has offered this tasty
Ghirardelli Rocky Road Cupcakes recipe:

2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, divided
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third. Grease or spray the top surface of the pan with nonstick spray and line the cups with paper liners. In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt 1-1/4 cups of the chocolate chips with the butter, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together thoroughly. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is very pale and thick.  Scrape the warm chocolate over the egg mixture and fold it in with a large rubber spatula.  Sprinkle the flour into the bowl with half of the remaining chocolate chips and half of the walnuts.  Fold just until the ingredients are blended.  Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups.  Sprinkle the tops with marshmallows followed by the remaining walnuts and the remaining chocolate chips. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown.  Set the pan on a rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Run the tip of a table knife around the top of each cupcake to detach any melted marshmallow or chocolate from the pan.  Let the cupcakes cool until firm enough to remove from the pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 cupcakes.





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The Crafty and Creative Displayed “On Broadway”

We’ve highlighted some of the great culinary competitions that have taken place here at the Fair. But did you know that before the Fair even begins, there are dozens of competitions that are judged and then displayed during the Fair? Many of these are in our Tapestry and Culinary Styles buildings (also known as the Village on Broadway).

Taking a walk through the Village and you’ll see that your fellow Fair goers are very talented. In Culinary Styles there are not just foods like preserves and cakes, but also elaborate tablescapes.

In Tapestry you can get ideas for home decorating form people who do it best. Christmas, fall, themed parties and everyday set-ups for your home are exhibited. There’s also handmade costumes, wedding dresses, jewelry, quilts and baby clothes!

It’s our last day to display these great feats of skill, but we do hope you will be inspired to try your hand at crafting or cooking for one of our competitions for next year. Make sure to check back on our website and blog for more details!

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It’s the Great Pumpkin Recipe Contest, Fair Guests

The 2011 L.A. County Fair presented prizes to finalists in It’s the Great Pumpkin Recipe Contest Saturday, Oct. 1.  Awards were handed out in the Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Other divisions.

Selma Courll of Lakewood won first place in the Pumpkin Pie division for her three-layer pie that had a layer of pecans, cream cheese and pumpkin pie. She was awarded $25 and a rosette for her win. She faced stiff competition from Bobbi Jo Chi of Rancho Cucamonga and April Burton of Rowland Heights. Bobbi Jo mad a very inventive ancho chile pumpkin pie and April made a pumpkin pie that the judges described as “tasty.”

Selma also took third place in the Pumpkin Bread division. She made a pumpkin muffin with chocolate chips and cream cheese. First place in Pumpkin Bread was Jeanelle Coffey, resident of Sherman Oaks. Jeanelle made a dark brown sugar pumpkin bread that had the “perfect blend” of holiday spices, according to the judges. She was awarded $25 and a rosette for her win. Coffey apparently has the magic touch in the kitchen and has already won at the Fair this year for her key lime and chipotle pepper custard pie. This is her first time entering into the Fair’s culinary competitions and she said she did so “on a whim.” Taking second was seasoned Fair competitor Gayle Bauer of La Verne. Her recipe used a cream cheese frosting that the judges described as “delicious.” Gayle has previously won for making English toffee, fudge, salsa and pies.

Taking home first place in the Pumpkin Other division is La Verne resident Steve Joines who made pumpkin lasagna. Pumpkin seems to be a winning ingredient for Joines, who also won in the enchilada competition for his pumpkin enchiladas. He was awarded $25 and a rosette for his win. Arlene Taylor made a pumpkin cheesecake and place second in the division. Monine Zerbe’s pumpkin bars scored third place.

Congrats to our winners and finalists! We hope that we see you all back next year. We can’t wait to try your delicious creations.

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Volunteers stitch success of ‘Warm Up America’ project at the Fair

Knitting and crocheting fans donated more than 1,000 blocks to this year’s “Warm Up America” project at the Fair. For more than a decade, thousands of 7”x 9” knitted or crocheted blocks have been collected by Fair volunteers to assemble into beautiful afghans and distributed to homeless shelters all over Los Angeles and Orange County.

Sixteen blocks were assembled into each individual afghan, to create more than 60 blankets. Volunteers, including the three pictured here – Yolanda Mahler of Los Angeles, Edda Broderick of Claremont and Janice Ogata of La Crescenta – who worked in the Knitting Lounge located in Tapestry on the project.

Yolanda Mahler of Los Angeles, Edda Broderick of Claremont and Janice Ogata of La Crescenta volunteered for the "Warm Up America" project at the Fair.

Volunteers also taught crocheting and knitting to Fairguests who stopped by the Lounge – an inviting, homey, living room of creativity. In fact, said Broderick, not only afghans have been “built” at the Fair, but so do friendships that continue year-round.

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Cupcake War (and cheesecake, too!)

The waiting is the worst. Pacing back and forth, back and forth. Wide eyes darting to and fro. Deep sighs heard every few minutes. For crying out loud, waiting for the birth of a child isn’t this nerve wracking! So goes the judging at the cooking competitions at the L.A. County Fair. Every year domestic chefs of all levels enter their best dishes in the Fair’s Culinary Styles contests, vying for the coveted Blue Ribbon and bragging rights for the best pie, cookies, pizza, chili, even tamale!

Two popular competitions were held recently. The cheesecake competition was fierce! You’d think secret info on the Governor’s race was on the line the way spectators (and contestants) rubber-necked and eavesdropped on the judges while they tasted the sweet and savory entries. In the end, Chef Leslie, the new Culinary Styles coordinator and proprietor of the Young Chef’s Academy in Claremont, and her crew of experts chose the following winners:
Sweet cheescake:
First place – Ann Turley of Walnut with an apricot layered cheesecake.
Second place – Arlene Tayor of West Covina.
Third place – Dina Fernandez with a lemon cheesecake.

Savory cheesecake:
First place – April Burton of Rowland Heights with a chicken and salsa cheesecake.
Second place – Rebecca Mourer of La Habra with a roasted garlic and seafood cheesecake.
Third place – Peggy Linberg of Upland with a salmon cheesecake.

On Sept. 11, cupcakes were the delight of the day. The Cupcake Baking Contest yielded 16 entries, all looking fantastic. The winners are:
First place – Brooke Armijo of Pomona with a lemon blueberry cupcake filled with blueberry compote and topped with lemon creamcheese frosting. (Yum!).
Second place – Lauren Porter of Upland (Brooke’s sister. Who’s their mother and how did she teach them to bake so well?!) with a cinammon toast crunch cupcake.
Third place – Heide Ojeisekhoba of Upland with a pumpkin cupcake.

Lots more culinary contests are coming up like Enchilada, guacamole, Ghirardelli, big baking and leftover turkey. We’ll keep you posted.

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Yum! The 2010 All American Pie Contest – heaven in a pie pan

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take pie over cake any time, and covering the All American Pie contest earlier this week was pure mouth-watering heaven.

The contest was intense as judges lingered over each entry, taking just one more bite (two or three – wouldn’t you?) to make sure they picked the right winners. And they lingered, then lingered some more. The entries were that good!

Finally the ribbons were awarded and proud winners were photographed by friends and family (who could finally enjoy slices of their own).

Here they are:

2010 All American Pie - Custard Winners

BEST CUSTARD PIE (from left):
1) Jessica Kubel of Monrovia, Key Lime Pie
2) Emily Coffman of Moreno Valley, Roasted Acorn Squash and Apple Pie
3) Norma Barajas of Pasadena, Key Lime Pie

2010 All American Pie -- Cream Winners

BEST CREAM PIE (from left):
1) Peggy Linberg of Upland, Strawberry Cream Pie with a Triple Berry Layer
2) Marina Castle of North Hollywood,
Seven Layer Dulce de Leche-Peanut Butter Mousse Toffee Cream Pie;
3) Dawn-Michele Anaya of Whittier, Key Lime Pie.

2010 All American Pie -- Double Crust Fruit winners

1) Rebecca Mourer of La Habra, Blueberry-Raspberry Pie
2) Robin van Geest of Norco, Caramel Apple Pie
3) Avis N. Mitchell of Fontana, Avis’ Hot Apple Pie.

And there’s more food contest action to meet any appetite in Culinary Styles (you’ll find that in the Grandstand). Don’t miss these, bon appetit!

Cupcake Baking Contest: Saturday, Sept. 11, 1 p.m.
European Pastry Contest: Sunday, Sept. 12, 1 p.m.
Tamale! Tamale! Tamale!: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1 p.m.
Enchilada Contest: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 4 p.m.
The Perfect Guacamole and Salsa Dip Contest: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.
Run for the Fair Contest: Thursday, Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Fleischmann’s Yeast Bake for the Cure Baking Contest: Friday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship: Saturday, Sept. 18, 1 p.m.
Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookie & Brownie Contest: Saturday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.
Big Baking & Recipe Contest: Sunday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m.
The Perfect Reception Cake: Saturday, Sept. 25, 1 p.m.
Karo Perfect Pie Contest: Saturday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.
Shelton’s Leftover Turkey Main Dish Contest: Sunday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Pumpkin Contest: Oct. 2, 1 p.m.
Homemade Pizza Contest: Oct. 3, 1 p.m.



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BBQ and Chili Contests Just Perfect for Labor Day Weekend Fun

Culinary Styles kicks off the 2010 contest season Sunday with the much-anticipated Best BBQ, BBQ Sauce and Chili contests. Just follow your nose to the Big BBQ Ranch at Wilderness Ridge by noon to see all the action.

The Best BBQ Sauce Contest with eight contestants starts at noon with judges rating sauces on taste, appearance, overall appeal and texture to award the 1st place Rosette and $25 and Rosettes for 2nd and 3rd places.

Next up is the Chili Cook-Off at 1 p.m. when seven competitors vie with recipes for bold, Tex-Mex, meaty, veggie and others for the 1st place Rosette and $25 and Rosettes for 2nd and 3rd.

The Best BBQ Contest wraps up the day at 2 p.m. when judges will evaluate recipes for fish, pork, beef and poultry submitted by 16 competitors. They’ll be looking for flavor, tenderness and juiciness, the use of side dishes cooked on the grill to complement the main entrée, and the overall table theme. They’ll also ask contestants about the preparation of the entrée, side dishes and general knowledge of equipment. Prizes are 1st Place – $100 and Rosette, 2nd Place – $75 and Rosette, and 3rd Place, $50 and Rosette for all meat classs, and the Best in Show winner will take home a Rosette and $300.

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Preserved Foods entry forms due Tuesday, June 29, to L.A. County Fair

My mouth is just watering as I remind you that entry forms are due Tuesday, June 29, for the Preserved Foods contest of the L.A. County Fair’s Culinary Styles Competition. Forms may be downloaded from

Preserved Foods kicks off the yummy season here, with its divisions – Preserved Foods; Preserved Vegetables; Juices; Fruit & Vegetable Pickles; Relishes; Sauces; Vinegar; Jams; Jelly; Preserves; Marmalades; Butters; Conserves; Dried Fruits, Meats, or Vegetables; Kitchen Cordials; and Other Preserved Foods.

Preserved Foods entries must be delivered between 3 and 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 13, to The Village on Broadway/Tapestry at Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768. Check in through Gate 1 off of White and McKinley, and follow signs to the drop-off area.

Keep in mind other Culinary Style’s featured competition entry deadlines: Homemade Wine & Homemade Beer, July 16; Tablescaping, July 27; Baked Foods & Confections, Aug. 6.

Entry forms are also due Aug. 6 for these special contests:

• The Cheesecake Contest
• The Perfect Reception Cake
• Tamale! Tamale! Tamale!
• The Perfect Guacamole & Salsa Dip
• Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookie & Brownie
• European Pastry Contest
• All American Pie Contest
• Big Baking & Recipe Contest
• BBQ Contest
• Best BBQ Sauce Contest
• Chili Cook-Off
• Shelton’s Leftover Turkey Main Dish Contest
• Fleischmann’s Yeast Bake for the Cure Baking Contest
• Karo Perfect Pie Contest
• Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship
• Run for the Fair Contest
• Cupcake Baking Contest
• Homemade Pizza Contest
• Enchilada Contest
• Pumpkin Contest
Division class details and entry instructions are also available at For more information, call Amy Pond-Cirelli at (909) 865-4043 or at

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