ST. MARYS — Food and flowers filled the fruit hall at the Auglaize County Fair Wednesday evening during the Floral Show and Baking Contest.
Nervous chefs surrounded the judge where Pat Wooley stood behind a U-shaped counter, taste-testing the various salsas and appetizers that composed this years’ entries.
She was called and asked to judge based on her cooking prowess. Wooley has competed in state fairs, won recipe contests, and has recipe books and cookbooks published. She judges dishes based on presentation, taste, texture and says it is hard to choose when dishes are close in taste and texture.
By the end of the night, Wooley picked four winners from the appetizer category and from the salsa category.
Jill Briem from Wapakoneta entered bite-size empañadas and salsa this year. She won first place last year for her baked macaroni and cheese that also had zucchini and garden tomatoes, so she decided to enter again this year.
“I just enjoy the challenge in making different things and trying different things,” she said.
Amanda Kelly, of Lakeview, awaited Wooley’s verdict nervously, and said this was her first year entering the baking contest with egg rolls. It was fun, she said, just nerve-wracking.
Larry Kill is a fair board member and committee chair board for the fruit hall, where these contests were taking place. He is tasked with picking the category for the baking contest every year. Last year’s tomato crop was good, he said, so he decided to go with salsa this year.
“But, you know, the salsas over there are not all tomato-based,” Kill said. “There are fruit salsas over there, there’s some meat sauces over there.”
In past years, Kill selected a wide variety of categories including cakes, casseroles, soups and cheesecakes. The hall was filled with more than food, though. Entrants can bring canned goods, cut flowers, potted plants, roses, gardening, and more.
Ken Strickland, who was judging the roses and the other flowers, has been interested in flowers and gardening his entire life. Currently he was studying a red and pink rose cut straight from someone’s garden.
“Basically you judge on the form of the flower,” he said. “Notice, this one’s perfectly circular — almost perfect. It’s at its correct stage of beauty. It’s open a little bit, you can see the sepals. It’s not a hybrid-T like you would get in a bouquet that your boyfriend would send you,” he said. “This is an old garden rose. Notice the foliage is nice and clean. The stem is straight and strong ... The fluorescence is strong, it’s not starting to fade or anything like that. It’s really a very nice specimen.”
The flowers that received blue ribbons will ultimately compete against each other for the first place overall flower.