Jordan Lawrence baked a pound cake, chocolate chip cookies, jam thumbprint cookies, chocolate fudge, banana nut muffins and lemon bars and entered them in the Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair.
Although it was the first attempt for the 9-year-old, all six items were awarded a blue ribbon that made them eligible for the fair's big fundraiser - a cake auction - held Wednesday night.
Thrilled with what she thought was the final outcome, the Union Bridge resident left the area to help a friend with her pigs.
"I was happy that I got all blues," Jordan said, grinning ear to ear.
But the judging continued, and a few minutes later her mother told Jordan that she had won the grand championship ribbon for her lemon bars.
"I didn't know what winning the grand championship meant," Jordan said. "Then some people told me that last year's grand championship cake won $6,000. So I think my lemon bars might sell for $2,000 to $3,000."
But Jordan's prediction was slightly off.
Her savory treats garnered about $4,900 and were one of about 195 items sold at the 35th annual cake auction. The auction raised about $58,000.
The proceeds cover the cost of the fair, one of the largest in the state that has free admission, said Amy Petkovsek, the assistant superintendent of the cake auction.
Worth the price
The lemon bars were purchased by Rick Jones, owner of R.J. Custom Homes, a builder and a developer, located in Westminster.
"The lemon bars are very good," Jones said. "They were so good, in fact, that I'm going to call her at Christmas and see if I can get her to make me some more. I just hope they cost a little less."
Price was not his biggest concern when he began bidding on the lemon bars, he said. After being outbid last year, he went to the auction this year with the intention of purchasing or at least running up the price of the Grand Championship baked item, he said.
"Last year I ran the price up to $6,000, but I lost the bid to Sen. Larry Haines," he said. "It was an election year, so he had to win. But this year I wanted to win. It's for a good cause, and it's good for business."
Jordan's items were among hundreds sold at the event, Petkovsek said.
The premise of the auction is simple.
First, to participate, children must be 8 to 18 years old. They must bake their items and bring them to the judging area. About 30 judges interview the contestants.
"We use conference judges," Petkovsek said. "The judges might ask the kids how they made their item or how they beat their eggs. Sometimes they ask them how they mixed the ingredients or how they decorated their cake. Their answers are part of the selection process."
The judges also taste the entries, all of which receive a ribbon. To be selected for the auction, an item must be awarded a blue ribbon.
"The kids are not competing," Petkovsek said. "The cakes and other items are scored against themselves."
This year about 250 items received blue ribbons, and about 195 of them were selected for the auction, she said. A grand champion ribbon is awarded in each class.
Because the auction takes so long, fair officials decided to decrease the number of cakes sold, Petkovsek said.
"We are here until 11:30 p.m.," she said. "We had about 70 blue ribbon entries that didn't make it into the auction. It just takes too long, and we don't want to keep the kids out too late."
Once the cakes are selected, potential bidders must register to receive a number. Then the children carry their baked goods throughout the tent filled with bidders, Petkovsek said.
In many cases, the children have multiple entries. To get more entries in the auction, the children try to be unique. Ashley Lease, 12, of Taneytown made a shoofly pie and a butterscotch swirl cake, she said.
"I try to do something different every year," Ashley said. "But no matter what, I do I have fun. I like to see how much my cakes sell for."
Jenna and John Krebs, siblings from Lineboro, both had about 80 entries throughout the fair.
Jenna, 13, who learned to cook when she was about 6 years old, won five grand championships, including one for a decorated cake that depicts a basket of vegetables.
"I have a garden entry and a basket of vegetables entered," said Jenna, who has been entering the cake event for the past seven years. "So I wanted to make a cake that depicts the vegetables."
The yellow cake was made with butter cream icing and had decorations of corn, cabbage, a pepper, an eggplant, a cucumber, tomatoes, string beans, carrots - and a basket. It took about six hours to decorate, she said.
Her mother, Becky Krebs, mixed the icing colors as her daughter pieced the cake together, she said.
"She started with cupcakes for the bottoms of the vegetables," Krebs said. "She scooped out some of the cake base so the vegetables appeared like they were in a basket."
Although she knows her creations will be sold at the auction, she is hesitant to turn her cakes over to the buyers, she said.
"What hurts the most is when they stuff the cakes into a plastic bag," she said. "All my hard work, and they put it in a bag and all the icing gets squished down."