The District’s backyard gardeners, growers, bakers, and brewers will soon have a new platform on which to showcase their wares. A group of local cooking and urban gardening bloggers are organizing a D.C. State Fair. For its inaugural year, the fair is starting small; it will be at a tent at Columbia Heights Day on August 28. (Disclosure: I will be a guest judge at the homebrew competition, though I am not involved in the organization of the event. I don’t even own a day planner.)

The idea for the fair developed out of a post last year on Gradually Greener, the blog of co-organizer Amelia Showalter. I chatted online with Showalter about the festival, the competitions, and the potential of funnel cake to come.

Beerspotter: How did the idea for a D.C. state fair come about?

Amelia Showalter: Actually, it came from a post I wrote on my blog last year in which I complained about D.C. not having a county fair. I had traveled all the way out to McLean to enter a tomato competition, and it seemed too bad that there wasn’t anything more local. But it was sort of an idle complaint. It wasn’t until Jenna [Huntsberger of ModernDomestic] and Ken [Moore of The Indoor Garden(er)] and I all started chatting at a happy hour a few months ago that we decided this had to become a reality.

County fairs are so much fun, I think everyone should get to be a part of one — you know, enter your grandma’s pie recipe or show off your gigantic pumpkin.

B: Right, and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with your blog about urban gardening.

AS: Yep, although I won’t be entering anything, obviously. Gotta recuse myself as an organizer.

B: So of course I have to ask this first: What can you tell me about the homebrewing competition?

AS: The idea is to put a spotlight on all the tasty and innovative beers that people are brewing at home in the District of Columbia. Just like baking pies or growing tomatoes, people take a lot of pride in the beer they brew, and we want to give them a chance to show off. But like all of the D.C. State Fair categories this year, the home-brewing competition is a bit of an experiment. We don’t know exactly how many entries we’ll get, so there may or may not be multiple categories for different types of beer.

B: It is great to see homebrewing brought to the community. It’s something anyone can enjoy, but I feel like a lot of people that are into it stick to homebrewing clubs.

AS: Yeah, there is a bit of an underground club feeling. I’ve been to some home tastings, though, and it’s always a fun time. This will just bring it out into the open for a little while! And friendly competition is always fun.

B: What other competitions are you having? I see your web site mentions “Tastiest Tomato,” among others.

AS: Yes, there are two categories of tomato tasting, one for big tomatoes and one for small tomatoes. There’s also a pie contest, for which we’ve already gotten several entry forms submitted online, plus competitions for home-canned pickles, home-made jam, youth poetry, biggest and funkiest-looking vegetables, and cupcakes (clearly, in D.C., everything has to involve cupcakes somehow).

B: As long as there’s no cupcake-themed beers.

AS: No, but I know Jenna’s made Guinness cupcakes in the past, so someone could bring beer-themed cupcakes.

B: OK, that might be acceptable. How can people join the competitions, and who’s eligible to enter? Will you have prizes and stuff?

AS: Any district resident is eligible to enter. People can fill out the entry forms online by going to There are staggered deadlines, mostly a day or two before the fair itself (which is August 28), so people shouldn’t wait until the last minute to enter. There will be small cash prizes, much like what you’d see at a county fair, plus ribbons for first, second, and third. We’re also asking local businesses to donate gift certificates to give to the winners specific contests. For instance, the winner of the Funkiest-Looking Vegetable contest will get a gift certificate from Soupergirl in addition to the ribbon and cash prize.

B: Will there be funnel cake too?

AS: Alas, there will not be funnel cake at the D.C. State Fair tent. Since we’re doing this at Columbia Heights Day, though, there will be lots of food vendors around (maybe even funnel cake, I’m not sure!). But if the fair is a success this year, you can bet that a major priority for the Second Annual D.C. State Fair will be adding funnel cake to the mix.

B: What are you hoping for next year’s fair?

AS: This year’s fair is kind of a proof-of-concept, to see what kind of interest there is in these types of competitions. We’re hoping that next year we can add a lot more competition categories because so many people want to enter their prize peaches or cakes or crafts. Certainly for the home-brew contest, it’s not hard to see how more categories (IPA, stout, pilsner, etc) would be fun to have.

B: Well best of luck Amelia. Thanks for taking the time to chat, and I’ll see you at the fair.

AS: Yes, thank you!

Photo by daisybush via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License.