By Susan Triemert
Since the start of the pandemic, Falcon Heights resident Mary Guillen has been making and giving embroidered face masks to her friends, typically depicting the season in which they’re designed.
Now, Guillen is again taking her love of embroidery to the Minnesota State Fair: She has entered an autumn themed mask in this year’s embroidery contest.
State Fair competitions are nothing new to Guillen. She took fourth place in the crocheting category last year and third in cake pops a few years earlier. And some day, she said, she hopes to win a blue ribbon, in any category.
This year, Mary is competing in multiple categories. Her needlework entry, a pumpkin and sunflower design, will be judged on various aspects, including beauty, color, condition of the article and workmanship. Workmanship comprises 40 percent of the awarded points , she explained.
Asked how long she has been embroidering, Mary said she grew up surrounded by crafts. Her grandmother, Mildred Dudar, was a Ukrainian refugee, and their family always bonded over embroidery. Even her great-grandmothers embroidered, and some of their designs are framed in her family home.
A proclaimed “State Fair junkie,” Guillen said she likes contributing to the overall festival experience for others at the Fair.
This year, Mary also is competing in baking including making cookies and muffins. Her Hispanic husband David’s heritage inspired Mary’s muffin entry this year.
Because Mary’s muffins are less juicy than standard zucchini muffins, she said she uses “calabacita,” a Mexican squash, that she finds at Burrito Mercado. She also uses cinnamon that comes from Mexico because it is “sweeter, less hot.”
Mary said some State Fair’s veteran contestants have recommended she enter competitions at county fairs first, noting that score cards granted by the judges there can be used to improve future entries. Guillen noted she hasn’t competed in a county fair since the days of her youth in 4-H. But she said she may do that again one day, especially if she needs more feedback.
With a home within blocks of the Fair, Guillen and her husband visit the Fair often and look forward to spotting her art and baked goods on display. She said that because of the stiff competition any ribbon in one of the cookie categories is a huge accomplishment.
Guillen said she hopes one day to win a coveted blue ribbon and will continue to enter one or more categories each year until she does.
Susan Triemert, a Como Park resident, is a Twin Cities freelancer.