Though there weren’t as many entrants as in previous years, this year’s Ugly Lamp Contest at the Indiana State Fair managed to pique my interest in this most interesting of categories.
Not a fan of awarding anything to a newer lamp, I still managed to give an Honorable Mention to a shell-on-base combination made completely of a composite material. I suppose I should revel in the fact that a real shell wasn’t defaced in this endeavor, yet this utter waste of plastic in making an exact copy, when drilling a hole into a real one would suffice, is beyond my ken.
Just as disgusting, a green wicker frog sporting a red hat shade unfortunately isn’t eligible this year due to its entry last year. Contestants must wait at least five years before a re-entry.
A pathetic zebra’s leg complete with hoof unceremoniously stands at 15″ high, aided by the fact it is nailed onto an amorphous wooden base. A zebra patterned shade would have made it even more outrageous, and thus higher rated. Provoking outrage as well as disgust, this creation earned a Third Place ribbon—the only consolation being it isn’t an elephant’s foot.
Two entries vied for First Place this year. A 12″ tall, 5″ diameter turned-wood column sports a stained original fabric printed shade of flying Canada geese. A surprisingly well-done rendition of the same subject painted on the base echoes and intensifies the effect of this popular mid-century Colonial trope. The bias tape accenting the edges of the shade proves the earnestness of its creator, but its quality remains a moot point.
Consider, too, the circa-late-1920s hanging lamp. A loving Dutch couple (he forever clutching a now missing fishing pole, she in eternal fond embrace with him) huddle forever seated in front of a small shell “pond,” over which arches a bisque aquarium bridge. Suspended between two half coconut shells and supported by three driftwood twigs, this grotto of kitsch also is encrusted with seaweed skeletons, seedpods, and sentiment. With a cord so worn and the copper twisted in a hundred pieces, this souvenir of “St. Augustine, FLA” tore at my heartstrings.
This year’s Indiana State Fair runs July 29 through August 21.