A taste for the fair

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Kathy Scott

Kathy Scott got a boost out of her salsa finishing sixth at the Osage County Free Fair.

“I didn’t even know they had a sixth place,” she said with a laugh. Scott said her husband, Jim, tells her that her salsa is the best. He, too, was amused by the sixth-place finish, she said.

“But he gets to taste it and they don’t,” she said, explaining that the contest judges apparently don’t open the jars and taste the salsa. She said she wasn’t sure what they looked at. “I may come out on top this time.”

The annual Osage County Free Fair starts Wednesday, and runs through Saturday, which is the peak day of the overall event.

Kathy Scott grew up at Perry, but has lived in Osage County for perhaps 45 years, she said. Nonetheless, it was only 15-16 years ago that she started entering anything in the fair.

“I’ve always had a garden and chickens and things like that,” she said, recalling she didn’t even know she could enter her goods in the fair until she went to the local Extension office with some soil she wanted tested, and asked about the fair.

“I started by entering just a couple of things,” Scott said. “Now I go every year. No matter what, it’s just fun.”

Her husband, who makes metal art, has entered some of his work, and Kathy is particularly fond of canning.

“I hate for anything to go to waste, and whatever I can’t use goes to the chickens,” she said. A specialty of hers is Prickly Pear jelly. All you have to do is mention it to people familiar with the fair and they immediately know what you’re talking about.

She grows patches of Prickly Pear plants in rock gardens at her home, and squeezes gallons and gallons of juice from the fruit. The plants bloom in June.

“It’s kind of an oddity for here,” Kathy Scott said. But it’s not any old fruit-picking exercise, she said.

“I have to pick them with tongs,” Kathy said, describing the careful process of both removing fruit from plants and working with the picked fruit. “It’s just a lot of work.”

But all that work will yield tart, water-soluble juice that converts at a rate of about half a gallon of juice to 15 jars of jelly. In the end, Scott not only enjoys her own labors as a creator of homemade household goods, she enjoys going to the fair and seeing what all her creative neighbors and friends have been up to all year.

“To me, it’s just astounding the amount of talent that lives within the boundaries of Osage County,” she said. “It’s just fun to go out and look at everybody’s creativity.”