By AMANDA LUTEY, Staff Reporter | Beaver Dam Daily Citizen

Sue Putra, of Watertown, has been judging at fairs for 35 years. She said she loved 4-H and was active in Rock County. She attended UW-Stout to pursue a degree in education to be a home economics teacher. As soon as she graduated, she applied to be a judge.

“I love talking to the kids,” Putra said, “It’s the best part.”

Putra will judge clothes on Wednesday, and said that a lot has changed in the clothing entries since she was in 4-H.

“In the 1960s, there was the 4-H way of doing it,” Putra said.

Now, she said, it is all about good decision-making. She looks for a good choice of fabric, and if the garment will last. She said that talking through the process of how something is made is important.

Putra serves as a judge at the Rock County Fair every year and, in addition to Dodge County, has also judged at fairs in Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Waukesha, Walworth, Sheboygan, Dunn and Columbia counties. She also judges open class entries, and said that they are very competitive.

When it comes to food, Putra talks to kids about the importance of nutrition and serving sizes, and talks about food science. She said she looks for what is appealing and what stands out.

“You can determine a lot about the ingredients from the taste,” Putra said.

She said that something she considers to be important is calcium, and she takes the time to talk to kids about why it is critical that they get enough of it. She said that asking questions and getting youths involved in the judging process is important.

“It’s kind of like teaching a class,” Putra said of judging.

Putra is careful about the foods she tastes, particularly with foods that need to be served hot or preserved items that could bring a risk of food poisoning if proper methods weren’t used.

Michael Pederson, who works for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, judged the open class cheese entries at the Dodge County Fair at Rechek’s Food Pride on Monday afternoon. Pederson said he had been judging cheese for 15 years, and will be the chief judge at the state fair next year.

He starts by judging soft cheeses and moves on to flavored and hard cheeses. Judging cheese requires more senses than just his taste buds.

Pederson uses a corer to remove a sample from the cheese, and examines the texture and appearance of the cheese and smells the sample before tasting it. Spreadable cheeses are tested to see how they spread.

“If you get more than a point deduction, you are out of the running,” Pederson said of cheese competitions.

Pederson said that he likes almost all cheeses.

“The only cheese I don’t like is cottage cheese,” Pederson said.

Original article at: Beaver Dam Daily Citizen |