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4-H Virtual Table Setting Contest

Virtual Table Setting Contest

Did you know that you can be a designer each time you set the table? A designer chooses and arranges things according to a plan. Actually, there is more than one way to set a table. The usual way to set a table is to put all the dishes, flatware, and food on the table before anyone sits down. When there is company or for a special meal, part of the food and dishes may be left in the kitchen and served later. Diners at a buffet or a picnic may fill their plates and glasses before they are seated. The way to set your table depends upon the way the meal is to be served. Be creative and have fun! Color, texture, design and creativity are important. We are encouraging our membership to think of creative 4-H projects that will inspire them - such as a sewed table runner, a holiday centerpiece, candle making, menu planning, etc. that they can contribute towards a fair project to be submitted this summer. Making the actual meal is not a requirement, but encouraged!

For the Table Setting Contest one place setting is to be displayed. This place setting will include:

A table covering


Stemware or glasses

Flatware (forks, spoons, knives, etc.)

A centerpiece

And a menu of the food to be served (food is not actually displayed)

You must properly display at least one place setting, with the appropriate table covering and centerpiece. Youth are asked to take a photo of their display, and submit to the 4-H office by mail or email (Sac347@cornell.edu) by January 31st.Along with the photo, entrants must submit the following:

  • Name, age, overall theme, centerpiece description, menu, any additional information you would like the judge to know about your centerpiece project.

The Table Setting Contest is open to all 4- H members. Entries may be made by individuals or in teams of two. They will be judged in Cloverbud (5-7) Junior (8-10), Intermediate (11-13) and Senior (14+) age divisions and in the two categories, casual and formal.

Select a Theme - What is the occasion...a family dinner, a holiday, or lunch with friends? Is this a casual or formal occasion? Select a theme which fits the occasion. Possibilities can run from a casual fishing party sack lunch to a formal Mother’s Day dinner. Ÿ Formal — use candles (lit only while being judged), more than three pieces of flatware, china (no stoneware), tablecloth and/or mats are acceptable and cloth napkins. Ÿ Casual — be creative! Theme can be indoors or outdoors. Use any type of cover (tablecloth, paper, etc.) and any type of table service. Overall place setting should be an expression of your creativity; homemade touches are encouraged.

Table Appointments - These include any item used to set a table: tablecloth, placemats, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, and centerpiece. Choose table appointments to fit the occasion and carry out the theme. Paper plates, plastic ware, and paper napkins may be used for a picnic but they would not be appropriate for a formal dinner. Flatware and dishware must be safe to eat from i.e., no glitter, glue, etc. is to be used on eating surfaces.

Table Covering - This is the background for the food and table appointments placed on it. It protects the table and makes for less noise. Placemats and/or tablecloths may be used. Sometimes the table is left bare. Choose a covering which is appropriate for the occasion and the other table appointments. You may match or blend colors and textures in the dishes — or use something quite different for contrast.

Place Setting — Allow at least 20 inches of space for each person’s dishes. This is called a cover and each cover is set exactly the same. A cover contains the dinnerware and flatware for the meal. The following rules for setting a table correspond to the numbers seen in the table setting illustration shown here.

1. The flatware, plate, and napkin should be one inch from the edge of the table.

2. The plate is always in the center of the place setting.

3. The dinner fork is placed at the left of the plate.

4. If a salad fork is used, it is placed to the left of the dinner fork.

5. The napkin is placed to the left of the fork, with the fold on the left (unless a decorative/creative fold is used). The napkin may also go under a fork or on top of the plate.

6. The knife is placed to the right of the plate with the sharp blade facing in towards the plate.

7. The teaspoon is placed to the right of the knife.

8. If a soup spoon is needed, it is placed to the right of the teaspoon.

9. The soup bowl may be placed on the dinner plate.

10. The drinking glass is placed at the tip of the knife.

11. If salad, bread and/or dessert plate(s) — or bowl(s) — is used, place at the top of the fork(s).

12. If coffee or tea is served, the cup is placed on the saucer and set to the right of the spoon. Have the handle pointing to the right.

Note: Only the utensils needed are placed on the table.


Tips and Reminders for Setting a Table

  •  The table should be clean; it can be left bare or a table covering can be used as the background for the food and the items may be placed on top of it. A table covering helps protect the table and muffles the noise of clanking glassware and dishes.
  •  Placemats or tablecloths can be used for special occasions.
  •  Dinnerware and flatware should be chosen as appropriate for the occasion and that complement each other. Matching or blended colors or textures in the dishes or contrast something different make a table setting look attractive.
  •  Table setting items should be appropriate for the meal served. Snacks on paper plates are appropriate while a home-cooked dinner should be served on attractive dishes to help show it off.
  • Only the utensils needed are placed on the table.
  •  The centerpiece should be attractive. Simple ones, such as fresh flowers, a plant, or fruit can be used. If candles are used, they should be of the length so that if they were lit, they would be above eye level.
  •  The centerpiece should be low enough so that the people at the table can see over it; it should be colorful and blend with the tablecloth and the dishes; and be fresh and clean looking.

Menu Planning - When planning a menu, first decide on the main dish. Select appropriate vegetables, appetizer, soup or salad. Add a bread, dessert and beverage, if desired. Breakfast, party, and picnic menus should contain two or three food groups. Other meals should contain five food groups. Participants are encouraged to develop interesting and creative menus. For example, you might name a food to fit your theme.

Writing the Menu - The menu should be displayed on any medium of choice (card, ceramic tile, chalkboard, etc.) printed or typed by the exhibitor. The menu may be decorated and/or propped up. The following guidelines are suggested when writing or planning a menu:

  • Menus should be written in symmetrical arrangement on the page with the foods listed in the order they are served. (Every menu will not include all the foods listed here.)


Main Dish

Starchy Vegetable

Other Vegetables






French Onion Soup

Whole Wheat Wafers

Celery Sticks

Assorted Olives

Prime Rib of Roast Beef au Jus

Potato Soufflé

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Mixed Green Salad

Hot Rolls Whipped Butter

Lemon Cheesecake

Coffee Hot Tea