From woodworking to photography, DuPage puts hobbies on display at county fair
For James Barry, woodworking has always been an enjoyable pastime.
"People have told me I should be doing this for a living, but it's just a hobby for me," Barry said. "If I did it full-time I think I would get bored with it."
For the past eight years, the Naperville resident has competed in the adult woodworking class of the home economics division at the DuPage County Fair.
He will return this year to the fairgrounds to showcase his talent at the 57th annual DuPage County Fair, which continues through Sunday, July 31.
"I just like doing it," Barry said. "I sell some of my stuff, but a lot of it I'll give away as presents."
Since he was in high school, Barry has specialized in "basically anything you can do with a scroll saw."
His creations include everything from clocks, pens and candle holders to a fully operational, motorized Ferris wheel.
"I would rather give people something that's done personally than going to a store and buying something," Barry said. "The people really love it. They appreciate it a lot more."
Barry generally enters between 15 and 20 items for competition and has won the title of Grand Champion numerous times. But titles and blue ribbons are not the reason Barry returns year after year to the county fair.
"To me the Grand Champion (title) is nice and that, but I just like to show my stuff to the public," he said.
This year Barry plans to enter a number of his pieces in the competition, including a wooden bowl, toy helicopter, jet airplane and a swing for dolls.
The Home Economics buildings will be open to the public daily during the fair, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Organizers expect more than 5,000 entries to the competition this summer, Home Economics Chairwoman Holly Yeates said.
Entries for open classes were slated to be judged on Wednesday, and some talented DuPage competitors winning a little extra cash. The competition, though, often proves to be less about the money and more about DuPage residents' developing interests.
"We've always continued to try to think of ways to remain relevant and attractive to people interested in our fun, friendly competition," Yeates said.
This year classes were added in the areas of desktop publishing and garden photography. The latter requires competitors to submit photos of their personal gardens, with judging based 70 percent on gardening practices and 30 percent on photography skills.
While open class categories are always changing, Yeates emphasizes that it is crucial to ensure the competition remains "something families can do together."
"There's lots of competition for people's time in the summer. Kids go one way and parents go the other," Yeates said. "But this is a period of time they could all work together to enter at the fair and work toward success."