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Pies fly at Berkeley County Youth Fair

August 05, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --John Michaels didn't really have a strategy to win the junior division of the pie eating contest Wednesday at the Berkeley County Youth Fair.

"I just ate," said the 13-year-old Glengary, W.Va., boy after being the fastest among about 20 contestants to eat a small eclair pie with their hands behind their back. Michaels won $15 and was presented with the certificate.

Other than a little bit of chocolate drizzled on the crust, Michaels said he didn't actually taste what he stuffed in his mouth in a matter of seconds and swallowed without the aid of silverware.

Finishing in second place in Michaels' division was Chance Butts, and third place went to Finn Callahan, according to pie eating contest chair Betty Kane.

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Michaels said he previously won other eating contests and planned to compete in today's watermelon eating contest, which begins at 6 p.m.

After downing two eclair pies to capture the senior division title, Alicia Pownall, 16, of Martinsburg, said she just went for it.

Pownall, who considers apple pie to be her favorite, said she found that by consistently eating a combination of the eclair pie's creamy filling and crust "it goes down better."

Finishing second to Pownall was Joseph Collis, who declined a leftover pie to take with him.

"The two I had were good enough," Collis said. Finishing third in the senior division was Caitlin Koski, according to Kane.

The pies were donated by the Hedgesville 4-H Junior Volunteer Fire Co., and they replaced donuts because contestants had been choking on them in the past, Kane said.

Before dessert was served, contest-style, fairgoers had the opportunity to dig into a $6 barbecue chicken dinner, an annual fundraiser for the youth fair, which is now in its 63rd year.

Jim "Gator" Locke and six other employees of the West Virginia University Tree Fruit Research and Education Center grilled 250 chickens that had been split in half and basted with a blend of lemon juice and chunks of lemon, garlic, onion, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, thyme and celery salt.

Locke was joined in the barbecue operation by Tim Winfield, Dennis Magaha, David Leach, Troy Hollis, Dick Zimmerman and Mostafa Chehhab.

Ideal hot and dry air conditions on Wednesday helped the volunteer crew cook a rack of 30 chicken halves in less than two hours, which Locke said was fast.

Locke said he has helped with the barbecue for more than 25 years, tracing back to when the fair was held near Martinsburg High School.

After cooking chicken for about five hours on Wednesday, Locke said his appetite wasn't whetted.

"Once you've been in it all day, you really don't want it," Locke said.

Locke said he and other WVU employees began helping with the fair's barbecue when the Kearneysville research center had held an annual "field day," which has since been discontinued.

"...The ladies from the Youth Fair cooked the meal and chicken for us, so in return payment, we started cooking ... here," Locke said.

And they haven't stopped.

Sponsored in part by MidAtlantic Farm Credit, the meal included half of a chicken, baked beans, cole slaw or apple sauce, rolls and ice tea. Ice cream included was sponsored by Rock Hill Creamery.

"It's a heckuva deal for $6," Winfield said.

To make sure the chicken was properly cooked, Magaha said they look for a split in the breast area and shrinkage around the bottom of the leg. If the chicken wasn't evenly split in half, they prodded it a bit more to make sure it was done.

After being taken off the racks, the chicken was basted with more sauce to keep the meat moist because it continued to cook for minutes afterward, Hollis explained. About five gallons of basting sauce -- made with eight quarts of lemon juice and three gallons of oil, had to be brought to a boil beforehand, Locke said.

Tonya Crowell, the fair's barbecue chair, said the fair's beef barbecue event sold out on Monday.

"I started at 9 o'clock this morning," Crowell said Wednesday after a sizable line of people had been served meals.

"I'm tired."

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