For the past 50 years, happy-go-lucky Carol Kinelski has been entering her photographs, baked goods and jams into the county fair.

But when she first moved to Madison County 50 years ago on Feb. 1, she was quite a different person. Shy and reserved, Kinelski attended a knitting class where she met three women who asked if she would like to join the Madison County Homemakers. It wasn't long before she was holding leadership positions, even county president, within the club over the years.

"I think when I started having leadership positions, it just, ya know, brought out in me the part that I was lacking," Kinelski said. "So I think I've become a much better leader."

She first started entering submissions for the fair with simple crafts she had made, also bringing in cookies, bread and canned foods she made from her husband Joe's garden.

It wasn't long before she started winning blue ribbons, and one year, she and Joe each took home a "Best in Show" award. Joe won his for his canning of pickles and she won for her delicious stollen coffee cake.

Over the years, Kinelski has continued to enter her stollen coffee cake, a yeast coffee cake with maraschino cherries and pecan filling, as well as her strawberry-rhubarb jam, among other things.

This year, Kinelski has entered her homemade apple pie, which she said came out beautifully.

"I'm really excited to see if I win a ribbon," she said.

She also has entered her stollen coffee cake, two types of jams and 11 photographs in the photography division.

Her process starts a few days before exhibits are due, making her starter sourdough. The next morning, she begins baking her bread. While that's going, she gets working on her stollen coffee cake, which is yeast-based and requires kneading and rising. Eventually she starts making her pie crust for her apple pie. Afterwards, she picks out the flowers for her floral arrangement.

Needless to say, when Kinelski comes home after dropping off her entries, her kitchen is a mess. But it never gets old to her.

"I wouldn't do it every year if it did," Kinelski laughed. "But I also like to go to support the fair."

Last year, Kinelski won seven blue ribbons -- but she didn't keep them. In fact, she hardly ever does. She prefers to give them back to the county fair so they can be reused another year.

She remembers when she first started entering into the fair, back when exhibitors were placed in the large metal building with no air conditioning, concrete floors and plenty of flies. Now they are located in a nice building next door, which she said makes her and the rest of the exhibitors feel appreciated.

For Kinelski, the Madison County Extension Office and the Homemakers have been instrumental in her transformation as a learner and person. Despite being retired for almost 20 years, Kinelski said she's just as busy now as she was when she was working.

When she's not traveling, Kinelski visits the nursing home once a week.

"I just love people and to be with people. Those people, they have no one who comes to see them," Kinelski said. "Everyone of them is so loving and appreciative of a Mcdonald's hamburger. They are such special people."

The Madison County Fair and Horse Show is ongoing until Aug. 3. For more information, visit themadisoncountyfair.com.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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