by Judy Laing

Celebrating the unique history of the Great State of Texas has always been an integral part of the annual State Fair. Have you ever wondered who collects and enters all those amazing artifacts everyone enjoys seeing?

We are Judy and Doug Laing of Fort Worth and we are long-time collectors who have been entering our treasures since the 1980s. When we began submitting entries we would enter individually and usually win eight ribbons (many first place) between us. There are numerous categories for entries, but we specialize in the Hobby Category which has over 200 classes ranging from American glass to perfume bottles, political items and various types of jewelry, to name a few. I am honored to have twice won a blue ribbon in each of four categories. Last year the categories were cameos, boxes, compacts and a 100-year-old purse.

The Creative Arts Building on the fairgrounds is home for these outstanding collections, plus the ever-popular butter sculpture that takes weeks to complete. Walking through the building your eyes are drawn to a display of beautiful handmade quilts hanging from above to display after display case of treasured entries.

Throughout the years we have entered many, many classes such as cameos, tumblers, Christmas postcards, 1936 State Fair Centennial memorabilia, sports collectibles (a 1970 University of Texas football signed by the number one team in the U.S. – the year I graduated from The University), political collectibles, dolls, hats, purses…the list goes on and on.

My favorite class is the 100-year-old items. Three antique cameos were my first entries and I won Blue Ribbons! One cameo was an 1850s lava cameo with three girls on it. Another one was a Bakelite mourning cameo and the third was my mother’s shell cameo from the 1920s. Since those first Blue Ribbons, we have garnered over 200 ribbons, many of them first place. In the 1990s we were honored to have had our picture taken with long time State Fair President Errol McKoy (he served from 1988 – 2013) and our numerous Blue Ribbons.

The 100-year-old category is a recent addition to the competition and it seems to expand each year. My first win in this area was a photo box with a beautiful lady on top. We have won several Blue Ribbons for 100-year-old glass, china and purses.

In addition to our entries, we enjoy seeing what everyone else shares. Several years ago it was exciting to see an amazing 100-year-old wedding dress which won a Blue Ribbon.

The majority of our ribbons have been in the political category. We have received recognition for collectibles from Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and George H.W. Bush. These items include such things as presidential inauguration invitations, “I Like Ike” lapel pins, rare JFK salt and pepper shakers, cups and saucers. A thank you note acknowledging the receipt of sympathy wishes by former President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy upon the death of their prematurely born infant son on August 8, 1963 enabled me to win the political division in 2018.

It’s so much fun to listen to all the comments of Fair-goers as they peruse the exhibits. It often brings back memories from their grandmother’s home.

Planning for our entries begins long before the State Fair opens. We always enjoy taking our items in August and to see all the other contestants with their special items. Then, we wait anxiously to see what the judges have decided. Many of the workers have been doing this for years and look forward to it every year, just like those of us who love entering.

Unfortunately, this year’s State Fair competitions are virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of that and the fact that we were planning a special 50th wedding anniversary, we did not participate, but are looking forward to continuing this exciting annual adventure. There are still many categories where we have not competed including books, sewing items, tobacco collectibles, clocks, vintage jewelry, Boy and Girl Scout items, souvenir dishes, and banks. Maybe in future years you’ll see our entries in these areas.

Make your plans to attend a future State Fair and look for our collectibles. You won’t be disappointed. The Texas State Fair always has something for everyone!

Judy Laing is a proud, native Texan who has always enjoyed history. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in history. When she and her husband, Doug, were married 50 years ago a family friend encouraged her to buy antique furniture instead of buying new items, and the saga began. She shares her love of antiques through a booth at a local antique mall. Judy loves Texas and the State Fair.

Judy and Doug celebrated a socially distanced 50th wedding anniversary in August 2020. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. One daughter has caught the antique bug and a grandson loves history.