'She showed up, showed everyone what a winner looks like, and left without a trace.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 21, 2022. It has since been updated.
Linda Skeens did not come to play at the Virginia-Kentucky (VA-KY) District Fair this year. She came to win—win big. The mysterious contestant dominated the June 13 competition by winning more than 25 of 80 contest categories (she competed in 29 categories) and the internet is now obsessed with her. Skeens was crowned the ultimate local fair champion after the VA-KY District Fair posted a list of winners on Facebook a few months ago. Skeens won every place in every category of baked goods—cake, pie, cookie, bread (both sweet and savory), brownie and candy—as well as many of the ones in canned food.
I need you to know that someone named Linda Skeens swept almost every category at the Virginia Kentucky District Fair and people on Facebook are losing it pic.twitter.com/5kK3s0q4Hu— Annie? Rauwerda? (@anniierau) June 24, 2022
According to The Washington Post, Skeens won best spaghetti sauce, best applesauce, best sauerkraut, best jelly and best jam. A woman with many talents, she even placed in Embroidery and Wall Décor categories. As the internet gushed over Skeens' skills, netizens yearned to know her identity. "She showed up, showed everyone what a winner looks like, and left without a trace," posted a commenter while another joked: "Did you hear about the time there was a kitten stuck in a tree? Linda Skeens baked a French Baguette Ladder right there on the spot and rescued it."
One woman dominated a local fair’s food contest. The internet went looking for her. https://t.co/HYesFwmz1k— Post Local (@postlocal) June 30, 2022
Some even invited Skeens to Thanksgiving dinner at their house, while others asked for her hand in marriage. "We have found the lady who can take down Bobby Flay," said a commenter. Yet, no one could find the real Linda Skeens. The Virginia-Kentucky District Fair—which has hosted the annual event in Wise, Virginia, since 1913—revealed no information about the woman except her name. Among those looking for her was radio personality Mason Moussette, who was intrigued by Skeens' sudden shot to fame. "I just found it fascinating," said Moussette, who made a TikTok video inquiring about the mystery woman's whereabouts. "I wanted to know the story of this woman. How did she do so well in so many categories?"
The video, which has over 730,000 views, eventually caught the attention of the real Linda Skeens's granddaughter, Franki Skeens. The 33-year-old revealed that as her grandmother’s name blazed across social media, "my phone just started blowing up." According to Franki, although she and her family were stunned by Skeens's unexpected stardom, they weren't surprised by her many victories at the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair. "To us, it's nothing new because Mamaw has done it for years," she said. Franki recalls preparing cookies and other sweets with her grandma to enter the fair as a youngster.
"It's a big family tradition," she said, adding that her grandmother has been competing in the fair for several decades. However, although Skeens has taken home many blue ribbons over the years, it was never as big as her victory this time. Franki Skeens revealed that her grandmother, the real Linda Skeens, is in her late 60s and lives in Russell County with her husband. She apparently does not have any social media, an email address, or even a cellphone. Skeens is a doting mother and grandparent to three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren among whom she is most famous for her potato casserole, her strawberry fudge and homemade blackberry ice cream.
"If it can be made, she can make it," said Franki. "I don't know how she does it. There are never any leftovers. She is an exceptional woman. She's kind, she's sweet. She would either give you the shirt off her back, or she would make you a shirt, depending on what you wanted." Although her grandmother prefers to keep to herself and out of the public eye when her family reads her comments from strangers on social media, "she just grins from ear to ear," Franki added. "She loves it."