Bakers battle for honors in fair pie contest
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 3, 2007 2:07 PM
Ruby Thornton awoke at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday for one reason -- to bake for the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.
It was the day of the annual pie contest, and she was not about to miss it.
"I started entering so long ago that I don't know how long it's been," she admitted. "I work out there a lot, so just decided I would do it."
This year, she made a vinegar pie and a black walnut pie, a variation on the pecan pie, she explained.
Husband George accompanied her, helping bring in the submissions.
When she later won the blue ribbon for the nut pie category in the adult division, he was asked if he would be sharing in any winnings.
"No," Mrs. Thornton quickly answered. "It's just mine."
Seems his staying in bed sleeping while she slaved over the oven nixed his chances of dividing up any prizes won.
Lynda Carroll of Forest Hills said she had also gotten up at 5:30. Joined by husband, Charles, and son, Chris, who served as her designated pie carriers, she said she has entered the competition every year, missing last year for the first time in probably 20 years.
"As long as I have known about it, I have entered. It's also nice that the children can compete," she said. "I just enjoy doing it."
It was the fourth year of competition for Becky Jo Lane of Pikeville, daughters 7-year-old Victoria and 4-year-old Bridgette in tow. While 1-year-old Michael slumbered in a stroller, his mother and siblings each held a pie.
Mrs. Lane's entry was a tomato pie, which had earned her a blue ribbon in the contest last year. Victoria brought a cream cheese pumpkin pie, for which she had also received a blue ribbon a year ago. Bridgette brought a buttermilk pie.
Although none of them won a ribbon this year, Mrs. Lane said there had been a more important reason behind the event for her.
"I just wanted to start doing something with the girls, a mother/daughter thing," she said.
A dozen seniors from Faith Christian Academy showed up with entries made over the last two days in Della Stocks' home ec class.
Karie Maddox brought a chocolate pie that won her a third-place ribbon in the junior custard category, while Jessica King won a third-place ribbon for her chocolate chip cookie pie.
Classmate Katie Millard made a cheeseburger pie.
"(Mrs. Stocks) brought in a lot of recipes, and we chose," she said.
Jillian Sanders said the students baked the pies during class, juggling between two ovens. Her peanut butter pie won second place in the custard category.
"It was a lot of fun," said Renee Provencal, who made a beef broccoli and cheese pie that won a blue ribbon in the "other" category for juniors. "It was interesting to make a pie that wasn't fruit or something."
It was the third year Mrs. Stocks has encouraged her students to participate in the fair contest.
"We have won them all," she said. "The first year we entered all fruit and won first, second and third place. We wised up. With five categories, we entered them all."
Even though they haven't covered the cooking unit yet, Mrs. Stocks said the students seemed to warm up to the opportunity.
"They're excited. They have been baking for two years. They smelled up the whole school," she said.
Wesley Dills of Dudley, one of the token male bakers, is a chef by trade but "pretends to bake," he said.
"I actually entered prepared foods and won first place on coconut cake and sweet potato muffins."
He has always had an interest in the contest, especially the past five or six years, since he finished high school, he said. Thus far, he only won second or third place, never a first.
"Maybe this year will be a little different," he said as he stood in line to submit his entries -- a custard pie, cream pie and shoofly pie.
When the winners' names were called out, Dills heard his twice -- first place for custard, second for cream.
Homeschooler Abigail Johnston has entered twice before and this year brought a caramel chocolate pie supreme she found in a Betty Crocker cookbook.
She was optimistic it was good, although she hadn't tasted the finished product, she said.
"I sampled each of the individual parts. It's a layered pie," she said. "It tasted good."
The judges agreed. They gave her a third-place ribbon in the "other" category for juniors.
Margey Smith and daughter, Colleen, are a staple in the contest.
"It's a family tradition," Colleen said.
Jackie Flowers, director of the contest since it was introduced, recalls seeing Mrs. Smith coming with her mother, Margaret "Bill" Crawford, as a young child.
Between them, the Smiths brought 12 pies this year -- seven for mother, five for Colleen, now a college a student. It might be an annual event, but in between, they spend a lot of time looking at cookbooks and deciding on their next effort, they said.
The contest hasn't changed much over the years, Ms. Flowers said. There are still five categories -- cream, custard, fruit, nut and other. Judging is based on a 100-point scale, with 50 for flavor, 25 for appearance and 25 for texture.
The only difference, she said, has been the addition of a youth category.
"We started out with just adults," she said. "Now it's open to children of any age. We have more youth than we used to."
Tuesday's judging seemed to take longer than usual, even though with 68 entries it was not the highest number there has been over the years. The five judges seemed to have a difficult time narrowing down the field.
First-place winners had to leave their pies, which will be on display for the remainder of the fair. Second and third place winners had their wares sliced and served to those in the audience.
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