Kids strut their stuff in contests with family in tow

With new exhibit competitions like digital photography and MySpace pages aimed at the tech-savvy younger generation, this isn’t your grandmother’s or your mother’s county fair. Well, unless you’re the Flores twins.

The 8-year-old twin sisters will join mom Karen Flores and grandmother Marian Vanden Bosch in entering this year’s more traditional contests by showing off their flowers, fruits and ponies.

“It’s really fun. You like to see how your stuff stacks up against other people’s,” said Vanden Bosch, who has also been entering the fair’s competitions with her daughter for the last 10 years.

The Flores twins and Bosch are just three of a record nearly 8,000 people entering more than 3,000 different competitions this year to vie for a total of $75,000 in cash prizes. Most of the participants’ entries will be displayed for the entirety of the 10-day fair.

This year is the first time that competitors have been allowed to enter from outside San Mateo County. People have been sending in projects to the fair from across the country, including University of Akron marketing Professor Dave Cockley.

Cockley entered a video he made all the way from Cleveland. The amateur videographer had made a musical comedy and saw the San Mateo event as a rare opportunity to showcase an electronic work at a state or county fair.

“The county fairs have always been a good way for people to display what they’re doing,” Cockley said. “In the past it was knitting and cooking and such, and now it’s evolved … into the newer technologies to mirror what people are interested in and what they’re doing.”

This is also the first year that participants can enter online at SanMateoCountyFair.com. About 70 percent of the submissions this year came from the Web. The online entry forms show that the fair is at least “somewhat up-to-date with technology,” according to Competitive Events Coordinator Dane Dugan.

“People look at fairs as a dated farming, ranch, cooking and quilting kind of event,” Dugan said. “If we’re going to maintain our longevity as a community celebration for all ages, we have to change to whatever the needs are of our patrons. [MySpace] is something that kids are doing more and more everyday.”

While most of the winners will be picked before the fair opens its gates, a few contests will take place in front of fairgoers. There will be a chili cook-off and a wall-size mural contest Aug. 12, a talent show Aug. 16, a most adorable baby contest Aug. 18 and a homemade ice cream contest Aug. 19.

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