Cries of “You Betcha” erupted from the cake auction tent at the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair on Wednesday night as attendees screamed the catchphrase of the auction’s founder and late auctioneer Nevin Tasto.
Tasto, who used to yell his two-word slogan every time a cake was sold, died in May and at the first cake auction without his booming voice to auction off homemade confections, there was one goal: honor his legacy, and let there be cake.
“This was his favorite part of his fair,” said Dixie Tasto, Nevin’s widow. “He loved the fair and the kids.”
The auction raises money for 4-H, while also paying for the fair itself and providing for free admission.
Each year, desserts baked by local 4-H kids that judges have ranked the best out of the fair’s baking competition are entered into the cake auction, according to Amy Petkovsek, superintendent for the cake auction. The cakes are then auctioned off to the highest bidder by way of young 4-H members pacing a crowded tent with their culinary confections on full display, trying to empty the pockets of local residents, business leaders and politicians.
This year, it raised a record-breaking $111,875. The previous record was $87,300, set in 2019.
The cake auction also added a new champion award for best chocolate cake, Tasto’s favorite, and unveiled a new lectern with a plaque commemorating Tasto that will be used at fair events.
Petkovsek said the fair wasn’t the same without Tasto, but that the kids made him proud with the standard of their baked goods.
“The quality is higher this year all around,” Petkovsek said. “I am wondering if they had lots of time practicing baking during the pandemic like us grown-ups did.”
A total of 165 baked goods were auctioned off, including cookies, pies, and of course, cakes.
The first sale of the night made a big splash, with a lemon blueberry cake made by Emily Fritz, 14, selling for a whopping $4,000 before being donated in Tasto’s name and resold to another buyer for $800.
“I was a little surprised when it went over $1,000,” Fritz, a Westminster resident, said. “It felt good.”
Mike Laney, who bought the cake and donated it to a fund in Tasto’s name, said all his kids have been in 4-H and, as a regular buyer of cakes at the auction, he was used to Tasto’s presence in the community.
“Mr. Nevin’s done it as long as I have been around,” Laney said. “It was such a great cause.”
Juliette “Jules” Hutchison, 10, of Littlestown, Pennsylvania, baked the competition’s grand champion cake and the night’s most expensive dessert, carrying a final price tag of $16,000.
Hutchison’s Swedish tea ring cake, complete with cherries to garnish and slivered almonds arranged in sunburst patterns, was her secret weapon.
It was the recipe her mom won the grand champion title with back in 1988.
“I remember Nevin selling my cake,” Rachel Wagner-Hutchison, Hutchison’s mom, recalled. “It’s nice to be a part of it this year.”
This was Hutchison’s first time entering the baking competition at the fair and she entered three cakes, but the tea ring cake, which she affectionately named “Fred,” reigned supreme. Fred’s twin “Ted,” a tea ring cake that Hutchison said wasn’t pretty enough for the competition, didn’t make the cut.
“I really was half asleep when we were baking,” Hutchison said of her choice to name the cakes.
When she found out she had won the grand champion award, the highest honor in the baking competition, Hutchison couldn’t believe it.
“My mom screamed. I was like ‘What?’ I asked if it had a trophy,” Hutchison said.
While the award came with a ribbon sans trophy, Hutchison said she was proud of her cake’s hefty price tag.
The Carroll County Farm and Business Syndicate and The Good Ole Carroll County Farm & Business Fair Supporters, groups of more than a dozen local businesses, teamed up to purchase Hutchison’s cake.
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“It’s all about giving back to the kids for us. This is the future of our county. If we support them here, they’ll know their efforts aren’t in vain,” said Trevor Hoff, a member of The Carroll County Farm and Business Syndicate.