PALMER — There are so many things to do at the Alaska State Fair. Taking the time to slowly meander the Hoskins Exhibits to appreciate creative works, be it a culinary dish, painting or artistic photograph is a free and enriching experience.

“It fosters pride in the community,” Temple Christiansen, ASF exhibit supervisor assistant, said.

Wave after wave of fairgoers cycled through the Hoskins building on Wednesday. Whether they were there to observe the various works or check on their submission, there seemed to be no shortage of art enthusiasts. This encouraged Christiansen, a longtime ASF volunteer turned employee.

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“There’s so many talented people doing beautiful things,” Christiansen said.

Each year, hundreds of people submit their photos, art pieces, cakes, cookies and other forms of expression to the fair. Christiansen noted that they receive works from across Alaska and beyond with numerous out of state submissions.

Some entries like the photographs are pre-judged prior to opening, according to Christiansen. She said that by the time people get to see the photography entries, they’ll know who received awards.

From handspun quilts to handcrafted brews, just about any creative endeavor is on display inside the Hoskins and Irwin buildings.

On top of pre-judged projects, there’s a spectrum of onsite cooking contests for baked goods during the season. There’s cooking competitions for all ages and each year multiple families show of their culinary skills.

Submitting creative projects and engaging in contests on the grounds goes hand in hand with the fair experience, according to Christiansen.

“It’s an invaluable component of the fair. It’s a major part of it,” Christiansen said.

ASF exhibits volunteer Billy Jo Traut sat inside the Hoskins building helping people submit baked good entries for an onsite competition.

“We’re here to help people,” Traut said.

Traut said people are assigned a number which is recorded in their records, filling several bulky binders that go back years. She said entry numbers are used during all the competitions and always stay with the registrant.

“That number is for life,” Traut said.

Traut has volunteered at the fair for many years. She said that she keeps coming back for the people.

“We just love the people. We love to see what they do… You meet the nicest people. You meet great kids. It’s a way to encourage people to get involved in the community, and just have fun with it,” Traut said.

The sheer amount of variety amongst the baked goods, let alone other types of entries always manages to take Traut aback. She said the diversity of entries, be it for a tasty pie or intriguing photograph is what makes each year special.

“Every year it’s unique, it’s diverse, it’s just beautiful to see through their eyes,” Traut said. “You look at photography and you go wow! They got it. They saw it first and it’s just beautiful.”

Traut lives in Palmer, not too far from the fairgrounds. She said this outlet for creativity annual available at the fair is very important for the community, especially for the children.

“I think it’s really good because the younger generation coming up, they can get involved,” Traut said.

Traut said that each year is an opportunity to reach someone with an untapped talent, just waiting for that spark of inspiration. She said that proves why it’s keep these exhibits open every year.

“It’s people that enter exhibits and our volunteers that make this fair work and bring it together,” Traut said.

Anchorage art lovers Dave Dexter and Lisa Paesani said they make their rounds through the fair exhibits every year.

“It inspires me to do some art stuff myself,” Paesani said.

Paesani and Dexter both said they love seeing the children’s art and seeing what they all come up with each year.

“That’s what the fair’s about,” Paesani said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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