"Happy Limbs." When I finally read the description, I knew that Bucksholz’s entry would be my first place.
  • "Happy Limbs." When I finally read the description, I knew that Bucksholz’s entry would be my first place.
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For lovers of Americana, memorabilia, or plain ol’ junk, the display of collections is the coolest place at the San Diego County Fair. The Home & Hobby Show is out of the sun and in air-conditioned comfort.

San Diego County high school athletes sorted by their former alma mater.

On the second floor under the grandstands, folks . . . or at least folks like me, can spend hours viewing the submitted displays of old postcards, photos of the famous, stuff collected from around the world, and Sponge Bob figurines.

Regular visitors will notice some changes this year. Home & Hobby coordinator Elena Lai Etcheverry said, “The Fair did a focus group. They wanted it revamped.”

Etcheverry says the show offers better viewing of displays and more interactive demonstrations on adult crafts, cooking, and decorating. “They wanted it to be more trending,” said Etcheverry. 19 of her 21 staffers are new to this year’s Home & Hobby Department.

After submitting my own collections for seven years, in 2010, I began serving as a judge in the “everything else” category. Collections not fitting into the other 14 categories had the largest number of entries this year — 17.

I judged toys, gift cards, clothing tags, old lamps, lunch boxes, miniature tea sets, sand from around the world, and small kitchen gadgets only in the color red.

For over an hour, I was shown each entry, reviewed, made notes, and took pictures for side-by-side comparisons. Judges like a nice, clean display, with an easy-to-read dissertation on the collection. After eliminating the ones that didn’t meet the fair’s guidelines — more items may not always be better — I choose my top three.

Third place was awarded to the collection of Nicole Harris, of San Diego, displaying large stacks of her daughter’s first through sixth grade homework, tests, and writing projects.

Eileen Cummings, of Ramona, received second place for her tiny books that were placed in walnut shells. The rare collectibles first became a thing at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

I went for strange in honoring Lisa Cantor, of San Diego, with first place. Cantor collected toilet paper from around the world, each piece labeled with the place, city, and year collected. Some pieces looked like sandpaper.

Honored by all the judges as the show’s top collection, Best of Division went to John Gascon, of San Diego, for his baseball cards. But not just any baseball cards. Gascon collected cards of San Diego County high school athletes that went on to play big-league ball, sorted by their former alma mater. The collection spans over 101 years of players.

I have to admit I almost passed up one display. John Bucksholz, of Lakeside, entered his hand-carved, highly polished wooden bowls and jewelry boxes. Nice, but when I finally read the description, I knew that Bucksholz’s entry would be my first place. Entitled “Happy Limbs,” the wood came from the limbs of dead trees, burned in the 2003 Cedar fire.

A confab of all the show’s judges bumped up Bucksholz’s collection to the Special Award - Most Unique, with a bigger ribbon and more prize money.

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