While any homemade pie is a good thing, some pies might be just a bit better than the others. Those are the pies that will be making their way to the Galveston County Fairgrounds this weekend for the WinterFest pie contest.
The pie contest serves as the county’s official pie competition. While pie contests are a traditional part of most county fairs, the schedule at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo, held in April, is too packed with other events to give pie its due. WinterFest, the County Fair and Rodeo’s holiday offshoot, offers pie bakers a bigger platform.
All ages of pie bakers are welcome. Divisions for sub-juniors (bakers ages 8-12,) juniors (ages 13-17,) and adults over 18 level the playing field, and a rule change allowing pre-made crusts brings the competition within reach for even casual cooks with a sweet tooth.
Three-time champion Becky Clemons will be back to defend her WinterFest title. While she wouldn’t divulge her battle plan for the 2018 contest, she did share some advice. “I try to stay away from the usual pies like pumpkin or apple,” the Santa Fe resident said. “I like to look on Pinterest for ideas.”
Clemons’ prize winners were a Reese’s Pieces pie, blueberry-lemon cream, and in 2017, an Island-inspired pie with coconut and pineapple. “Right before WinterFest, I made the Island pie for my family on Thanksgiving, and they gave me the thumbs up to make one as my entry in the pie contest,” Clemons said.
Many accomplished bakers find rolling out a pie crust to be one of the biggest culinary challenges, and Clemons agrees. “I’ve never made a traditional pie crust. I tend to make pies that call for graham cracker or cookie crusts, because they’re easy to make,” she explained.
Beyond choosing the right crust, Clemons said that there’s no recipe for winning. “There’s no secret to it,” she noted. “I would say the most important ingredient is having a good time.”
Good times won’t be hard to find at WinterFest. The event gets under way Friday with a craft market, gingerbread house contest, tree lighting ceremony and a Christmas movie for the whole family.
A full day of events is on tap for Saturday, including the pie contest judging at 1 p.m. After the winning pies are announced, all the pies will be sliced for sampling by anyone who makes a donation to the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.
Saturday’s events also include a fun run/walk, craft market, snow yard, washer tournament and pet parade. Mutton bustin’ for ages three through seven takes place at 11 a.m., and for parents leery of activities with “bustin’” in the title, a series of reindeer games is offered for the same age group. The reindeer games consist of racing to fill a wagon with snowballs, a Christmas tree obstacle course and a ribbon pull.
Admission to WinterFest is free, with fees for some activities. Complete rules for the pie contest, cookie contest and other competitions are available at galvestoncountyfair.com.