Poster contest ends

Published 6:52 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Washington Parish Fair poster contest wrapped up Friday.

The annual tradition has been going strong since 1979, but poster chairman Kay Bell, who has been associated with the posters since then, said the contest never gets any easier to judge.

Speaking Friday, Bell said she had no idea how many posters the committee will get, how good they’ll be or even when a winner will be chosen, though a winner should be named within weeks. This is because although there’s been a firm deadline for weeks, the act of selecting a winner can itself take weeks and involve artist negotiation, corrections and sometimes a wholesale rejection of the year’s submissions.

That long process begins after Friday.

First, Bell said the committee collects the posters from Bogalusa.

Then, they open all the entries and set them next to each other.

“You look at all of them together to start with you go from there,” she said. “Sometimes it’s an easy thing, and sometimes its not.”

Bell said one of several unknowable factors is, the poster committee may need to suggest small changes to one or several good posters before they declare a winner. It’s not always clear whether the artists will be receptive to the changes or whether they’ll be willing to even make them.

“We can’t just mouth feed them all of their corrections — the artist has a lot of say as to what goes on the poster,” she said. “Any time you judge something that has flaws or corrections that need to do be done, you can’t overdo it or it begins to be unfair to the competitors.”

However, Bell said good posters tend to have a few things in common. First, the fair is a rural, country celebration so anything abstract or too wild is obviously out. While such posters might be good artistically, the poster committee sells the posters for $20 each, and they use that money to support the fair.

Bell said the posters have been reliable moneymakers since the tradition began. Bell explained that the idea came from Joanne Thorp, who borrowed the idea of locally created posters from a New Orleans festival.

“We used the money to build the art building,” said Bell.

The fair is, famously, free for everyone. However, because the fair depends on the posters for part of its revenue, Bell said the design should have a broad appeal. Bell said the winning poster should seem new and at once familiar to fair-goers.

“An item people are familiar with,” said Bell. “We don’t have a lot of things exaggerated.”

Bell explained that simple is usually better.

“Clean color, good strong lines of the objects. You don’t want a messy one for sure. That doesn’t make for good sales,” she said.

And sometimes, despite some coaching and suggested improvements, Bell said, the committee simply can’t find a poster good enough to declare a winner. In those years, they’ll go back and review former entries.

“Our poster that we used last year, there was nothing entered (that we liked) and we went back into the archives and asked (Bob Ann Breland) to bring hers back and she did,” Bell said.

Breland’s entry featured jars of preserves sitting atop a quilt.

Bell said it’s not uncommon for artists to resubmit their work the following year, especially if they received feedback on their design.

Whatever unknowns exist this week, they’ll be sorted out in time for the fair’s opening day, Oct. 19 at 10 a.m.