I sold handmade jewelry and a few other crafts at my local farmer's market for a few years. I made some sales and enjoyed meeting the people.
I never entered a craft contest but I know our local fairs have them. Also, for jewelry artists, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads has multiple contests. These range from beadweaving to metalsmithing. You do have to use supplies bought from the company to enter. Still, if you place high or win the contest, you get prizes and recognition.
One last thought - I have read The Handmade Marketplace (borrowed from my library) and I would recommended it. It has a lot of great information.