TURLOCK — There's a problem in the floriculture building at the Stanislaus County Fair: there's not nearly enough space.
The issue is the success of the program, said Lori Konshak, head of 4H and FFA floriculture for the fair. More people, from preschoolers to adults, are submitting entries for everything from full gardens to cut flowers to succulents.
"We have 2,000 more plants in FFA than were entered last year," Konshak said. "I've already sent 400 to 500 plants home (after judging)."
She and Joyce Davis, who handles the younger categories, worked together to make room for everything this year but they're already strategizing for 2014.
"It's a good problem to have," Konshak said. "But right now, we don't know how to solve it."
On Wednesday morning, judges roamed the area, grading flower arrangements, single stems and displays.
Barbara Coelho of Turlock gauged the single flowers as fair employee Scott Lundell recorded her observations. She described the ideal flower: a bloom not fully open so she can see inside, with petals that are "nice and tight, with no damage."
"We're looking for pretty much perfection," she said.
Coelho, who has served as a judge for several years, said the number of entries has blossomed so to speak.
"When I first started judging cactus and succulents, there were five," she said. "Now there are 93."
Avid gardeners are pleased by the trend.
"The fair's educational," Coelho said. "The more things people get to see up close, the more interested they get in gardening."
Outside, Debbie Brereton judged bouquets and displays submitted by younger entrants. A member of both the Turlock and Ceres garden clubs, Brereton eyed plant quality, originality and theme. But not too harshly.
"We want to encourage them to come back and enter in the fair again," she said, explaining why an all-white bouquet entered in the multicolor division earned a third place and a note describing how to do better next time.
And if that same entry came from an adult?
"You wouldn't get anything," she said.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.