Last year — after 10 years of baking, organizing and raising more than $50,000 for the Thurston County Food Bank and Senior Services for South Sound — the Olympia Pie Bakers Guild called an end to the festival.
So senior services and the food bank stepped forward to keep the fundraising, and the fun, going.
Saturday, the baking and eating extravaganza will happen pretty much the way it has since 2009, with bakers presenting their best pies for judging and eating and the pie-loving public eating their fill of slices ($3 each).
Contest rules prohibit pies that require refrigeration and, this year, those with nuts, so fruit pies rule the day — especially those made with Washington’s state fruit.
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“There’s a lot of apple pie,” Eileen McKenziesullivan, senior services’ executive director, told the Olympian. “Apples are pretty readily available. Sometimes, it’s two-crust apple pie, and sometimes it’s apple crumble, which is my personal favorite.”
And then there are the other variations of the quintessential American pie.
Among last year’s winning pies were a deep-dish apple, a mixed berry-apple and even a caramel apple pretzel.
McKenziesullivan, a regular at the fest, admits she’s been known to eat more than one slice. And then there are the ones she used to take home for late mother.
“It was my mother’s favorite event,” she said. “I’d have to bring home a slice of peach pie and a slice of berry pie and a slice of apple pie, and she’d put them in the fridge and eat them for the next three days.”
For those who want to take home more than slices, whole pies will be sold for $24.
Except, that is, for the winning pies, which can be a lot more expensive.
Each entrant must bake two of the same kind of pie, one for judging and one for selling, and the second pie made by the grand-prize winner and the winner in each category — youth, amateur and professional — will be auctioned off.
Andrew Poultridge of the guild remembers the year that a young winner’s pie sold for more than $200 thanks to a bidding war between her two grandmothers.
The professional category, new this year, seems likely to attract high bids, too, with competitors including bakers from San Francisco Street and 8 Arms bakeries.
In recent years, the fest has attracted between 700 and 800 people, Poultridge said.
It takes a lot of pie to satisfy such a crowd, and the extra pies of the baking contest entrants don’t begin to meet demand.
The rest are made by volunteers, including students in South Puget Sound Community College’s Baking and Pastry Arts program, which has been baking for the fest since 2016.
The bakers-in-training were hard at work this week, making 50 pies with ingredients donated by the food bank, baking instructor Melanie Shelton told the Olympian.
That’s a lot of dough — and it brings in a lot of dough. Past pie fests have raised more than $50,000.
Olympia Pie Fest
What: The 11th annual fest, a fundraiser for the Thurston County Food Bank and Senior Services for South Sound’s Senior Nutrition Program, offers a baking contest, live music, information about programs that help hungry people and, of course, plenty of pie.
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Olympia Senior Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
Tickets: Admission is free; a slice of pie is $3.
More information: southsoundseniors.org/event/pie-fest/
Also: Those who wish to compete in the bakeoff must drop off two pies, $5 and an entry form (available at southsoundseniors.org/event/pie-fest/) at the senior center between 10 a.m. and noon.