Linda Skeens’ entries won the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair food contest

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The competition at the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair began quite innocently when a woman named Linda Skeens entered her many baked treats, canned goods, and other items for the judged competition.

Then she won – and she won huge. The show posted a winners list on Facebook showing that Skeens dominated the June 13 competition, winning more than 25 out of 80 competition categories. Things then took on a life of their own. Her online fans wanted to find her.

Skeens swept the cake, tart, cookie, bread (both sweet and savory), brownie and candy categories. In addition to the baked goods, Skeens’ corn won Best Canned Vegetables Overall and their peppers won Best Overall Pickled Product without Cucumbers.

Skeens won Best Spaghetti Sauce, Best Applesauce, and Best Sauerkraut. Not only did she win best jam with her grape jelly, but her peach and raspberry jam also won best jam — alongside several other undefeated dishes she cooked for the competition.

Thousands of people responded to the Facebook post, most in awe of Skeens’ culinary skills. But the questions have been persistent online: Where’s Linda Skeens? And who is she? Her fast-growing fanbase wanted to know, and as the days went by it became a mystery, growing more intense with every meme posted to the site as people asked, “Seriously, Linda?? Are you sleeping?”

“She showed up, showed everyone what a winner looks like and left without a trace,” wrote one commenter. Some comments got 10,000 likes and the hashtag #whereislindaskeens started circulating.

Endless jokes rolled in: “Have you heard about the time a kitten got stuck in a tree? Linda Skeens baked a French baguette ladder right on site and saved it.”

Some people invited Skeens to Thanksgiving dinner, while others proposed to her.

“We found the lady who can defeat Bobby Flay,” said one commenter.

Only they couldn’t find her. Aside from her name, the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair — which has held the annual event in Wise, Virginia, on the Kentucky border since 1913 — has not revealed any information about the woman who appears to have won it all.

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A woman named Linda Skeens, who lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, was bombarded with messages on Facebook to the point that she felt compelled to make a public statement declaring that in fact she wasn’t the Linda Skeens.

“I AM NOT THE LINDA SKEENS BACKPHENOM WHO WON ALL THE RIBBONS AT THE KENTUCKY VIRGINIA DISTRICT FAIR,” she wrote.

Skeens, 68, said her fake identity was actually delightful as she has had the unexpected opportunity to meet up with friendly strangers from all over the world over the past few days.

“I’ve heard from people in Indonesia, Australia, Britain, Norway and all sorts of places,” she said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post.

“I honestly had the time of my life,” she said. “I really hope and pray that the real Linda Skeens has been made aware of all the recognition she’s received online for her baking skills because she certainly deserves it.”

The stalwart Legion of Skeens continued to search for their baking and canning hero on social media or anywhere on the internet. Several people did TikToks about her, including a man performing “The Ballad of Linda Skeens.”

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Radio personality Mason Moussette, who hosts a morning show in Dallas, joined the search. She’s always looking for entertaining stories to share with her audience, she said, and when she stumbled upon Finding Skeens, she was intrigued.

“I just found it fascinating,” said Moussette, who also created a TikTok message following Skeens’ whereabouts that has been viewed nearly 400,000 times. “I wanted to know the story of this woman. How did she do so well in so many categories?”

“The entire internet is looking for this woman,” Moussette said in her TikTok.

As it turns out, the real Linda Skeens’ granddaughter came across Moussette’s video and reached out.

When her grandmother’s name was flying around social media, “my phone just started exploding,” said Franki Skeens, 33.

While she and her family were stunned by Linda Skeen’s sudden fame, they were not surprised by her many victories at the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair.

“This is nothing new for us because Mamaw has been doing this for years,” said Franki Skeens.

She has fond childhood memories of baking cookies and other goodies with her grandmother to attend the carnival.

“It’s a big family tradition,” said Franki Skeens, adding that her grandmother has been a contestant for several decades and has taken home many blue ribbons, but perhaps not as many as this year.

According to Franki Skeens, Linda Skeens lives with her husband in Russel County, Virginia. She is in her late 60s and has no social media, email address or even a cell phone.

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Her granddaughter said she is a loving mother and grandparents of three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She is also an avid churchgoer with a knack for crafts – including embroidery, cross stitch and painting – and of course cooking and baking. She is best known within her family for her potato casserole, her strawberry fudge (which won the fair for best baked good overall), and her homemade blackberry ice cream.

County fair judges gave her top honors this year for her peach pockets, chocolate cake, peanut butter cookies, and buttermilk breakfast cookies, among others.

“If it can be done, she can do it,” Franki Skeens said, adding that her grandmother turned down a request for comment from The Washington Post and said she was overwhelmed by the attention. “I don’t know how she does it. There are never leftovers.”

Aside from her unequivocal culinary talent, “she’s an exceptional woman,” said Franki Skeens. “She’s nice, she’s sweet. She would either give you the shirt off her back or make you a shirt depending on what you wanted.”

Although her grandmother prefers to keep to herself, Linda Skeens is apparently delighted with the public reaction to her triumph at the show.

As her family reads her comments, which have come in from strangers on social media, “she’s just grinning from ear to ear,” Franki Skeens said. “She loves it.”

According to Jennifer Mullins, a member of the fair’s committee, this year Skeens was one of 40 entrants to compete in the 80 categories of competition at the fair, which ran June 14-18. The food will be judged by an anonymous four-person panel the day before the rest of the trade fair begins.

In addition to various exhibits, other events such as bull riding, demolition derby and talent shows are also held at the fair. Mullins confirmed that Linda Skeens has attended the show for many years and has won countless competitions.

“Linda always won big,” Mullins said. “She has always been very successful at the shows, but this year she has found new success on social media as well.”

“How this story unfolded was a surprise I think for everyone,” she continued. “It brings joy right now, when we need it.”

Next year’s show is scheduled for June 13-17, and the committee expects a bigger audience than ever thanks to the legendary Linda Skeens.

“If people are interested in meeting Linda, they just have to go to the nearest local county fair,” said Franki Skeens.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/06/30/linda-skeens-virginia-kentucky-fair/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Linda Skeens’ entries won the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair food contest

Chris Estrada

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