It was a night of firsts at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
Margaret Smith, 15, a Manchester Valley High School student, took home first place grand champion for her Apple Pi Pie. But it was only the third pie the teen ever made, she said.
It sold for $12,000.
Margaret likes food puns, she said, and found this in a “Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.”
“It’s really cool (to be grand champion) because I’ve only been baking for the past two years,” said Margaret, a member of the Deep Run 4-H Club and Carroll County 4-H Hotshots. “It is really cool that my hard work paid off and I did really well, I’m really proud of myself.”
It was also a night of firsts for Amy Petkovsek, the cake auction superintendent, which is surprising because she’s been involved with the fair for over 20 years — first as a child participant, then a volunteer and now as the superintendent of the fair’s premiere event.
All that experience, but still this year at the cake auction — the chief moneymaker for the fair — there was room for a first.
Petkovsek told the Times that the 2018 edition was the first time she can recall that two groups of Carroll County businesses came together to pool their money and compete to bid for the grand champion cake.
She said, before the 8:30 p.m. grand champion raffle, that each group of about 10 businesses had come up with at least $10,000 to spend.
Both groups bid high, but only one could win. The Good Ole Carroll County Farm & Business Fair Supporters won the auction with a $12,000 bid.
The syndicate includes: Ben’s Rental; B & D Truck Hoist; Barnes Tire; Bare Truck Center; Westminster Transmission; Carroll - Howard Petroleum; United Used Cars; Staley’s Body Shop; Leckron’s Towing; Carroll County Rental Cars; Silver Valley Farms; Dell Brothers Grain; International Foreign Cars; Lee Weller Automotive and Styled by Robyn at Artistic Edge Salon.
That was encouraging news for 4-H Fair enthusiasts because the cake auction is its biggest fundraiser.
“We’re one of the last free fairs in Maryland,” Petkovsek said, “this helps keep the fair free.”
The money raised during the cake auction helps pay premiums for the kids’ entries, said Becky Ridgeway, 4-H educator at the University of Maryland Extension in Carroll County.
Premiums for the kids’ fair entries “is probably the biggest expense that the fair has,” Ridgeway told the Times. “So when a kid enters a cake, for instance, and they get a blue ribbon, they will receive a certain dollar amount for that.”
“When their cake goes into the cake auction, they are then awarded [$20], and then we also have a bake sale and any items that go into our bake sale, they get premium money for their placing and then they get an additional $5.”
The money also helps pay for the ribbons — blue, red or white — that earn based on how judges rate their craft, livestock or other entry, Ridgeway explained.
Despite sticky conditions — as one announcer said “It’s not really hot if you don’t think about it” — the community responded in droves, showing that they want one of the last free fairs in Maryland to remain in Carroll County.
Whether it was grandparents supporting their grandchildren as they proudly parade their entries or local businesses rallying to support this Carroll tradition, they were their in the seats. Some up to an hour early.
Kent Horichs, of Westminster, came out to support his five grandchildren, three of whom had entries make it to the prestigious auction, and the fair.
“I’ve come to a lot of the events,” Horichs said. “It’s fun and exciting, especially for the kids and grandkids. The cake auction is one way they can raise money to help support the fair.”
One grandson, 11-year-old Vincent Debenham, made a loaf of white bread. Horich’s two other grandchildren participating in the auction, 10-year-old Trenton Horichs and 14-year-old Hannahlore Debenhan, prepared other baked goods.
“My grandson (Vincent) got class champion on his loaf of bread,” Horichs said proudly. “He’s with the Deep Run 4-H Club.”
He said his grandkids were eager to show their entries.
“They really get into their tasks as far as making the cakes and putting all the ingredients together and coming up with a final product,” he said. “And then having it judged. It’s exciting to them.”
Whether it’s showing rabbits, chickens, cakes or crafts, Horichs said he feels it’s important for his grandchildren to participate, to be in touch with what older generations did.
The voice of auctioneer Nevin Tasto boomed through the speakers, as adolescent contestants paraded their pastries before a tent full of buyers.
“Georgia fresh peach cake!” Tasto announced, before instigating the bids. “Can I get $100!”
A buyer secured the peach cake with a bid of around $250.
“Yes sir!” Tasto’s voice echoed. “Give him a hand!”