Draper Days Pie Contest is delicious fun for all involved.
“Pie is happy. Pie is pretty. Pie is fun,” says Draper resident Jennifer Pulley, who has competed in the Draper Days Pie and Homemade Jam Contest for the past four years. On July 17, she plans to compete again. Watch out fellow contestants because behind the nice words is a serious contender.
“It all starts from scratch,” she admits. Immediately following each contest she works on a new original recipe, not taken from the internet or a cookbook. She rolls up her sleeves and improves upon recipes, experimenting with different filling combinations and enhancing textures.
“I love the culinary science behind a pie.” She credits her sister for teaching her all she knows.
The contest table has been graced with her creative genius — a Banoffee Pie, which is a glorified banana cream with caramelized whipped cream, bananas and homemade milk chocolate toffee chunks. Her prize-winning Peppermint Truffle Pie and a Caramel Chocolate Toffee Pie are scrumptious. Last year Pulley made the “best pie of her life” — a Berries Romanoff (fresh berries topped with a sour-and-whipped-cream chiffon).
However, that “best pie of her life” didn’t win.
“Judges seem to go for chocolate,” she says. “A chocolate peanut-butter something won. It made me laugh. It showed me I can’t take myself too seriously.”
Luckily, she is undeterred and plans a top-secret creation to wow the judges this summer.
“I am going to win,” says Pulley. “Hands down! I want bragging rights.”
Jacquelynn Sokol, a contest organizer, still talks about Pulley’s Berries Romanoff pie. “It’s the best part of the job,” she says about pie sampling. Non-winning entries are donated to the Draper City Fire Department working at Draper Days.
Sokol does more than put her fork into pies. She organizes the judges—the mayor, a local celebrity and a bona fide local baker “just to be legit.” Kneaders is the sponsor and provides prizes. “The newly crowned Miss Draper is always a judge in the youth category, and children love it when she taste tests their pies with her crown on.”
“Competition for adults and youth is all about fun,” she adds. Many families and neighbors compete against each other. Sokol offers pie makers two pointers: 1) July heat turns cream pies into soup, so bring them in at the very last minute. 2) “Be creative, but not too creative.”
Life-long Draper resident and former mayor Darrell Smith has judged the contest for several years and loves the concept. “It incorporates an old-time tradition into a community celebration,” he says. “Sometimes we forget that people like to take pride in their creations.”
Smith finds it particularly wonderful that children participate in the contest, sometimes with the help of their mothers. That partnership helps pass on family traditions and recipes. “Above all,” he says, “the contest allows people to compete with prized desserts.”
His delicious job has involved sampling up to 15 pies at one sitting. While he’s never tasted one he didn’t like, he noted that peach pies hold a special place in his heart. “They remind me of my mother who was an excellent cook. She’d prepare peach pie for nine kids.”
Smith has been attending Draper Days for years, but this year he won’t be judging. Should someone happen to ask him to do so, he doesn’t hesitate to answer, ”Heavens yes!”