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Gilbert centennial pie bake-off postponed a year

by Srianthi Perera – Oct. 25, 2011 09:59 AM
The Arizona Republic

Apparently, no one wanted a share of the pie.

The Arizona Blue Ribbon Pie Round-up and Bake-off scheduled for Jan. 21-22 at Highland High School, has been postponed to January 2013 because organizers could not get any monetary sponsors.

The bake-off had been billed as one of Gilbert’s signature celebrations of Arizona’s centennial and had received official sanctioning from the Arizona Centennial Commission, allowing it to use an “Official Centennial Event” designation. The bake-off was to benefit Gilbert Public Schools.

Organizer Pam Jackson, who runs a marketing business called Skipping Stars Productions, said she contacted nearly 300 potential sponsors, but could garner only in-kind support. Even that was limited, she said.

“People were saying it was not in their business plan this year,” Jackson said.

Crisco was one of the companies that gave this stock response, she said.

Jackson conceded that she didn’t give the project sufficient time.

Jackson and Maralyn Hill, a Gilbert journalist who is president of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, approached sponsors for donations ranging from $750 to $15,000 to raise an estimated $28,000.”There was a tremendous amount of interest,” said Hill, who said she was not able to put a lot of time into the project because she spends a large part of the year in work-related travel.

“Just more time and more personal contact” would work, said Jackson, adding that her job at a Gilbert high school made it almost impossible to contact people during the workday.

Jackson said a new member had joined their team. Carol Jacobson,a retiree from Chicago, was able to solicit sponsorships during the day.

Jackson pointed out that the bake-off could still be considered part of Gilbert’s state centennial celebrations if it is held within one year from the official centennial date of Feb. 14. If sponsorships couldn’t be found by then, the bake-off would be scaled back, she said.

Jackson is planning a kickoff in January to introduce the community to her celebration. The wordpress blog on the celebration (arizonablueribbon is down, but will be back up in a month or so, with the new information, she said.

Meanwhile, only seven people had applied to compete, most of them amateur bakers. The competition entry charges range from $10 for young bakers (secondary school students) to $150 for commercial bakers.

Among those who applied is Gilbert resident and competitive baker Stan Strom, who said that the competition structure makes it difficult for amateurs to compete.

Contestants must follow Maricopa County Environmental Services Department rules and regulations regarding food safety and obtain permits as necessary. Before the competition begins, the county health department is to inspect the serving utensils, refrigeration and heating equipment used by the contestant.

“Amateurs won’t have a clue what they are asking for,” said Strom, adding that it takes time to apply and receive a county food handler’s license.

Also, the time allotted to make the pie, 1½ hours, is insufficient, said Strom, who has participated in dozens of baking competitions, including the Arizona State Fair and national baking events, for more than 20 years.

“Our requirements are based on health-code laws and that, we cannot change,” Jackson said.

To help amateurs participate, Jackson said she is trying to enlist the help of owners of commercial kitchens, and also find them sponsorships.

“We are just two people doing this. We have good ideas, but good ideas can come from any place,” Jackson said.

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