One fairgoer finds a blue ribbon surprise

Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Although Robert Falkenburg of Oak Bluffs has been doing counted cross-stitch needlework for decades, he never won a ribbon at the Ag Fair. After entering unsuccessfully several years ago, he stopped submitting his work.

So he was amazed last Thursday when, during the family’s traditional stroll through the Ag Hall, he saw one of his works hanging on display. He briefly thought it belonged to someone else. But it was indeed his and was adorned with two ribbons — a blue first prize and a special award.

“Lo and behold, there it was! My eyes got moist. It was a big moment,” said Mr. Falkenburg who has turned out some 175 pieces since beginning the craft as a youth in 1941. “It was very exciting.”

“It’s the most difficult one I ever did,” he said of the 24- by 18-inch composition with an intricate American Flag motif, each state represented with its own design. It took him two years to complete and, like all counted cross-stitch work, it demanded extreme precision.

In counted cross-stitch, the artist copies a pattern freehand, creating a design with X-shaped stitches on clean, unmarked fabric.

Mr. Falkenburg gave the piece to his daughter for Christmas and the family began conspiring. They entered the needlework in the Fair under Mr. Falkenburg’s name, telling him nothing.

“Everybody in the neighborhood knew about it but me,” Mr. Falkenburg laughed. “I was overwhelmed.”

He and his wife, Jodie, live in the Campground cottage where they vacationed for years. Originally from New Jersey, the Falkenburgs began visiting the Vineyard in 1962, moving here year-round 10 years ago to their shared delight. The little house is filled with family every summer.

“We love it here so much,” said Mr. Falkenburg, an Army veteran of World War II and Korea.

The prize-winning piece clearly impressed the judges. One wrote, “Love this!” on the tag.

“That was a nice touch,” said the thrilled artist.