By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Judging is complete and the silent and live auctions are set for the first annual Rain Barrel Decorating Contest at the Hillsborough County Fair, which ends its 11-day run Oct. 3 at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds in Dover.
The auctions will be held during the fifth annual Great Plant Auction, featuring high-quality plant materials at reasonable prices and grown and donated by local nurseries.
Presented by the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD), the plant auction is scheduled to begin 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, under a blue-striped tent behind the livestock building, at 215 Sydney Washer Road.
Come early to view the annuals, perennials, landscape and butterfly plants, ferns, bushes and tree and plant nutrition items set to be auctioned. Proceeds benefit HSWCD youth programs, the HSWCD Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge and agricultural college scholarships.
As for the rain barrel auctions, the four rain barrels that placed first, second and third (in a tie) will be set for the live auction, which will take place intermittently throughout the plant auction. The remaining eight rain barrels will be on display for the ongoing silent auction, at each contestant’s discretion. Proceeds from both the live and silent auctions will benefit the respective schools and youth groups that decorated the barrels.
The winning barrels will be displayed as well at the 2022 Florida State Fair, scheduled for Feb. 10-22 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.
Placing first was the “Barrel of Fun” rain barrel submitted by Donna Holt on behalf of 4-H club members who meet at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds.
Placing second was a rain barrel submitted by FFA students at Lennard High School in Ruskin, which on the back features a wise owl and a hand-drawn image of Earl J. Lennard, the school’s namesake, sitting under a tree and reading a book.
Placing third, in a tie, were rain barrels entered by the J.F. St. Martin FFA club at Plant City High, named posthumously for a beloved teacher, and by students at the Lutz K-8 public school.
“The creativity was phenomenal,” said HSWCD Executive Director Betty Jo Tompkins. “I was taken aback by the first-place barrel, which used paddle fan blades from a small children’s fan to create a dragonfly.”
Other barrels featured such things as images of plants and pollinators (birds, bees, bats and butterflies) and the many reasons for using rain barrels to harvest rainwater and preserve natural resources.
As for the Lennard High rain barrel, which depicts a bright sun and growing fields on the front, and Earl Lennard and an owl on the back, Tompkins said it is a fitting tribute to the man who this year received the Harvest Awards Memorial Tribute, given annually before the start of the Hillsborough County Fair.
Lennard, the namesake of the high school in Ruskin, entered the Hillsborough County school system as a first-grader and retired as its superintendent of schools in 2005. He died Dec. 23, 2019, after being hospitalized with a prolonged illness since Thanksgiving 2018. He was 77.
“I think he would have loved the rain barrel,” Tompkins said. “If you have faith, you know he’s looking down and saying, ‘Well done,’ and especially so because it was crafted by students from Lennard High School. I mean, how absolutely meaningful.”
For more on the fair, visit: www.HillsboroughCountyFair.com/. For more on the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District, visit: www.HillsboroughHSWCD.com/.