A deep breath at the Altamont Fair

I’m thirty feet away from the entrance to the Fine Arts Center at the Altamont Fair.  Inside that building – the oldest building on the Altamont Fairgrounds – are four of my five artworks.

Thirty feet away.  And it feels like three miles and ten years away.

The scarecrow competition at the Altamont Fair. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone Photo by Chuck Miller
The scarecrow competition at the Altamont Fair. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone Photo by Chuck Miller

Here i am.  I’ve been greeted by the entrants in the scarecrow construction competition.  One of the blue ribbon winners is a scarecrow that looks like Katy Perry.  I guess they now have scarecrows that frighten the birds away with Katy Perry’s looks AND her singing.  Hee.

Here I am.  I’ve just finished my “lucky meal” at Josie’s, the eatery right next to the Fine Arts Center.  Can’t go in the barn until I’ve had some food.

I think about where I’ve been over the years.  How this photography journey has impacted me over time.  And how, while my entire world has swirled around me in varying levels of desperation and confusion and frustration and depression and aggravation and a dozen other -tions and -sions, I’ve always had my cameras nearby.

And now I find out.  Did my electro-wired Dream Window claim a prize?  Did my ultrawide of a Washington Park icon earn some love?  Did my evening shot of the heavens in Essex County wow the judges?  And did my “you shouldn’t enter an abandoned church” photo make it all worthwhile?

I’m thirty feet away from the entrance.

Eight years.  Eight years I’ve entered this competition.  Eight consecutive Augusts of shooting and framing and waiting and hoping.  Three of those Augusts have turned into bitter, tear-filled desperation.  Four of those Augusts have brought smiles and ribbons and prize money.

This is the eighth August.

And I’m still thirty feet away from the entrance.

Competition Season 2016 has started off with a clunk.  Three competitions, three photographic zeroes.  And I’m already feeling wounded.

Maybe, just maybe, this will turn things around.

Come on, Chuck.  Walk in the building.  Find out.  Shoot straight, ya bastard, and don’t make a mess of it.

Inside I walk.  And first off, I see my ultrawide shot, Washington Park Lakehouse, my second-ever Altamont entry that employed my Soviet film camera, the Krasnogorsk FT-2 “Raskolnikov” shooter.

Looky looky, it earned absolutely…

No ribbons for Washington Park Lakehouse.
No ribbons for Washington Park Lakehouse.

Aw crud.  Here we go again.  All right, don’t give up hope, Chuck, there’s still three other artworks in the Art Barn, maybe there’s some hope for The Pew of Holy Innocents.  Surely my shot of what happens to the inside of a church when it gets deconsecrated and left as a storage facility… surely that will earn a silk of some sort, right?

No fabrics for the Pew. Except for that ugly fabric of that Barcalounger.
No fabrics for the Pew. Except for that ugly fabric of that Barcalounger.

For crying out loud.  Competition Season 2016 is turning into a big steaming pile.  Come on, give me something here.

All right, deep breath.  I’ve still got my Essex County night shot, The Heavens Above, The Forest Below to examine… and…

Yellow silk for Honorable Mention!
Yellow silk for Honorable Mention!

Finally!  Finally, one of my photos has taken a silk in Competition Season 2016!!  And this little image still has some appearances in other events this year, including the 2016 Big E and the 2016 Durham Fair, so the opportunity for this Milky Way Nebula to capture another ribbon, besides its first at Altamont, is awesome!

Of course, now I’m thinking… Jeez, Miller, if you swapped one of your New York State Fair photos with this one for 2016… nah, can’t focus on that.  I could save this for Competition Season 2017 at the New York State Fair, and deal with it then.

One more image in the Art Barn.  One more – my fourth attempt at entering a Dream Window art project.  Okay, it’s over here in the “other materials” category.

And it’s…


Can we say ... BLUE RIBBON FIRST PLACE AWARD WINNER for Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry!!!
Can we say … BLUE RIBBON FIRST PLACE AWARD WINNER for Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry!!!

I need to look closely at this.  Make sure that the ribbon isn’t connected to something else.  Nope.  The fringe is clearly touching the Dream Window’s power cord.  Yes, investing in power cords for the Dream Window ensures that I’m not running to Altamont every day and packing the piece with AA batteries.

Were you SEEN next to Chuck Miller's artwork at the Altamont Fair??
Were you SEEN next to Chuck Miller’s artwork at the Altamont Fair??

Sweet tapdancing fried haddock on a soft bun with tartar sauce and semi-crunchy French fries, it finally happened!! Eight years of competing at the Altamont Fair and I finally earned a competitive blue rosette in the Art Department, right in the big barn!

I need to celebrate this!  Time to blast some Electric Light Orchestra!

Okay.  Just for a lark, I’m going to head over to the sheep and goat barn, where my other photo entry – the triplet San Clemente Island goats in my cute B&W photo called We Are Not Chickens – is competing in the “goat photography” category.  You seem shocked that there is such a genre.  Yep, you can compete in nearly anything at your local county or state fair or exposition.

I figured the judging wouldn’t take place until tomorrow, so at least I could make sure that We Are Not Chickens is suitably well-hung.  That, and maybe I could check out some goats or sheep for future photographic opportunities.

Oh wait, why is this man looking over the artworks?  Why is he writing down notes in a little binder?  And why are the sheep and goat organizers attaching ribbons to the photos?  This isn’t supposed to happen until Wednesday …

Okay, Chuck, step back, just watch.

And in moments, I saw We Are Not Chickens being hung on a lattice wall.

We Are Not Chickens ... but we are Blue Ribbon Award winners!!
We Are Not Chickens … but we are Blue Ribbon Award winners!!

Another blue ribbon, this time in the Goat Photography category!!  Holy Mack Brin Farms, Batman, another blue stripe on the night!!

Hey Electric Light Orchestra … how about an encore??

So… after receiving no ribbons or showings for my photos in three different competitions this year (I’m not counting The Cathedral of St. Philco as it is an arts-and-crafts entry rather than a photo entry), I’m walking out of Altamont knowing that three of my entries picked up silks – and two of those silks are blue in hue.

That will take the load off my shoulders faster than Atlas resting his back.

My thanks to all the judges and organizers of the various competitions at the Altamont Fair.  And if you do have a moment, and you’re at the Fair, by all means check out the great photos and artworks in the Fine Arts Center.  Heck, even my fellow blogger, Rob Madeo, has a couple of ribbon-winning artworks in the Barn this year!

And as for my photos … there are still some competitions on the schedule.  I just have to wait and see how things turn out.

Competition Season 2016 may have started late out of the gate…

But I’m hoping to make up ground like Usain Bolt.

Do this.


9 thoughts on “A deep breath at the Altamont Fair”

  1. That’s GREAT, Chuck!
    Well done!!
    (And thanks for All Over the World – been stuck in my head for decades.)


  2. Hey chuck, the Milky Way is our galaxy — a collection of stars grouped together by gravity (theorized to have a supermassive black hole at the center). Nebulae are interstellar gas/dust clouds, and while they’re often called “star nurseries” they’re distinct from galaxies. Just a bit of Science Wednesday.


  3. Woo hoo!! I almost couldn’t take the suspense. I had to resist the urge to scroll quickly through and look at the photos for results! Very, very happy for you!


  4. Congratulations, sir. Well deserved, indeed. On to the next challenge. Now why am I thinking about a fish fry special and a large vanilla shake?


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