10/07/09 — Pie-palooza

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By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 7, 2009 1:46 PM

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Contestants' entries for the pie contest line the table at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair as they await the judges' perusal.

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Samara Sanders, 3, the youngest entrant in the pie-baking contest, counts the number of marshmallows on her "smiley face" Rocky Road pie. She and mom Nikki, of Dudley, entered five pies and won two ribbons -- Samara for second place in "others," junior division, Nikki for first place in fruit pies, adult division.

Samara Sanders, 3, was the youngest entrant in this year's pie-baking contest at the fair on Tuesday.

She and her mom, Nikki Sanders, brought in five of the baked goods -- apple, Cool Whip, Rocky Road, key lime and Reese's peanut butter.

Their Dudley kitchen was busy the night before, Mrs. Sanders said. And Samara's favorite part? Eating marshmallows.

"She ate so many marshmallows, I thought I was never going to get her to sleep last night," her mother said.

Still, it was all about doing an activity that the young mom had once enjoyed doing with her own mother.

"I had entered (the contest) as a child," she recalls. "I thought I would start doing it with her. This is the first year she's actually been able to make the pies herself."

The effort paid off. When the winners' names were called out, Samara received a second-place ribbon in the "other" category, junior division. Mrs. Sanders received a first-place ribbon in the fruit pie category and a third-place for "others."

But before the noontime competition even began, there was much to be done to check in all of the 79 entries.

Richard and Debbie Bailey of Dudley were among the first to arrive, patiently waiting for the line to form. Richard guarded a pumpkin cream cheese pie for his wife.

"I didn't want to mess it up," said Mrs. Bailey of her sole entry. The other pie she had baked "just didn't turn out."

"It was a new recipe," her husband explained. "She was experimenting."

Mrs. Bailey has done well in the past, winning ribbons for a coconut cream cake and this year for her espresso brownies. It was her first time taking on the pie-baking contest.

"I just love baking. I enjoy it," she said.

Emma Robertson of Goldsboro made her grandmother's peach pie.

"It was something she made in the summer on Sundays," she said. "That's what makes it special. It's great to me."

It was also a family affair for the Lanes of Pikeville. Mom Becky Jo said it was their fifth year in a row for the event, which has become a "big tradition" for her and children Victoria, 9, Bridgette, 6, and Michael, 2.

"I go every year," said Victoria, carrying a chocolate chess pie. "I like it when we get to see all the pies we have checked out."

Younger sibling Bridgette's contribution was a pumpkin pie with a jack-o-lantern face. Mrs. Lane said her daughter got creative with a pizza cutter and laid the strips of dough on top of the pie to create the look.

Victoria's entry was the only one to capture a ribbon, second place in the juvenile custard category.

Mother/daughter veteran competitors Margey and Colleen Crawford brought in a dozen pies this year, six each.

"We started a couple days before, fighting over recipes, started claiming them," Colleen explained as her mother retrieved more boxes from the car. "We start a little ahead, but we narrow it down a couple days ahead."

Now that Colleen's in college, she can no longer compete in the junior division, which pits her against her mother. They did well, though, each claiming two ribbons this year -- first place for Colleen in nut pie, first in others for Margey; then both received ribbons for their cream pies -- second place for Colleen, third for her mom.

Darlene Marshall of Goldsboro brought a pineapple coconut pie as well as her homeschooled daughter Jennifer, 14, who held an oatmeal pie. The latter, Mrs. Marshall said, "was just something new and different."

The contest is an annual class project for Della Stocks, a home economics teacher at Faith Christian Academy, who had seven students with her this year.

"They all did two pies, two had three, so we have 15 entered," Mrs. Stocks said. "Plus my eighth-grade daughter, Hannah, did one, so I'm entering hers."

Two of the students, Brittany Minahan and Zoie Singer, both seniors, said they enjoyed the project, which made for a long day on Monday.

"They had an away volleyball game, so we were in the home ec room until about 10:30 (p.m.)," their teacher said. "We pulled an all-nighter, but it was fun."

The students earned grades for the lesson, with the chance to get 100 if they won a ribbon, Mrs. Stock said with a smile.

As it turned out, six of the seven students placed, three of them first place -- Rebecca McNeese in custard; Madison Caudle in others; and Zoie Singer in nut pies.

Wesley Dills, the only man in line, has been a part of the contest since 2001. Accompanied by friend Kelly Carmack, he entered three pies this year -- buttermilk, butterscotch apple and triberry, which featured cherry, blueberry and blackberry cooked down in blueberry wine.

"I started cooking at 8 this morning," Dills said. "There's a pie I left at home because I wasn't happy with it, a lemon chess pie. One of our ovens was broken, so I was down to two ovens."

Dills wound up with a second-place finish in the custard category.

Miranda Cox of Goldsboro looked forward to her first competition since moving back to the area. She has entered and won before, and likewise won in similar contests in Maryland, she said. Accompanied by her mom, Stephene B. Cox, she had made caramel apple, bourbon pecan and praline pumpkin pies.

Veteran baker Ann Worley of Fremont had two helpers, Betty Jones and Laura Snell, delivering her 10 entries -- two in each category. She wound up placing third in fruit pies.

And then there the entrants that gave this year's event an international flavor.

Tania Proctor recently moved here with her military husband and two children, 3 and 1.

"I had a friend ask me if I was going to the fair, so I got online and saw the contest," she said. "I always wanted to be in a food contest."

Her Memphis pecan pie contained authentic chocolate from Germany, where she had lived for five years before coming to Wayne County.

It was chosen by the judges for a second-place ribbon in the nut pie category.

Linda Kelly, from Canada, is in town visiting her daughter's family. She had already planned to make pies for them, so had brought her "Tender Flake lard" from home. It came in handy when she learned of the fair, and used it in the crust for her apple pie.

And then there were the "pie-fanners," volunteers with styrofoam plates keeping the flies away from the tables until the judging began.

Belmon Bailey, building and grounds superintendent at the fair, has been working at the fair since 1974. The pie-baking contest has grown over the years, he said, in numbers and in popularity.

Son Chris Bailey, a paramedic who has worked at the for the past 16 years, agreed. "I remember when they used to have two tables. Now they have five," he said.

"It's a big event at the fair every year," added Jackie Flowers, director of the event, as she announced the winners after more than an hour of deliberating and judging.

Blue ribbon winners in the junior division included Rebecca McNeese, custard; Zoie Singer, nut; Micah Lee, fruit; Hannah Lee, cream; and Madison Caudle, others. In the adult division, first-place went to Lisa Coone, custard; Colleen Smith, nut; Nikki Sanders, fruit; Carolyn Lewis, cream; and Margey Smith, others.

First-place pies will remain on display at the fair for the rest of the week. All others were sliced and served to those in the audience.