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Luck and good taste serve winners well at Metchosin Day

For the past 20 years, Kathleen Domney and Joan Rosenberg have taken part in the five-kilometre run that kicks off Metchosin Day.
Meet two of the Metchosin Day pie-contest winners: Kate Romain, best first-time pie, and Sean Palmer, prettiest pie.

For the past 20 years, Kathleen Domney and Joan Rosenberg have taken part in the five-kilometre run that kicks off Metchosin Day.

Years ago, they’d have their kids in tow, but on Sunday, free from parental concerns, they were fast enough to top the women’s “60 to death” category.

The friends, who have lived in Metchosin for 30 years, had a hunch the rain may have had an impact.

“The two people who normally beat me aren’t here, obviously,” Domney quipped.

“It has nothing to do with people getting faster, it’s just people dropping out,” said Rosenberg, who shares her friend’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.

The country fair had other competitions.

The main event was the cake and pie contest where seasoned veterans faced off against experimental newcomers to see who could please the palates of celebrity judges.

This year, Dan O’Connell, Rosenberg’s husband, entered a classic apple pie, its crust adorned with a lily. He used to be a shoo-in for the “pie by a guy” category, which has been removed because people agreed it was rather sexist.

Family friends Sarah Gray, Maria-Claire Clarke and her husband Steve Clarke, all in their mid-to-late 20s, were determined to knock O’Connell off his high horse with a mixed berry pie carefully decorated with hearts.

“We cut those hearts out ourselves with our love for Metchosin,” said Maria-Claire Clarke, laying it on thick.

O’Connell remembers the days when winning best in show meant you got to judge the following year. They’ve eliminated that to prevent bribery and hard feelings among the 5,000-strong community. “They decided to out-source it because there was too much controversy,” O’Connell said.

Enter the celebrity judges, Times Colonist’s own Jack Knox and Martha Haylor.

Knox, a neophyte pie judge, was following the lead of Haylor, who, having taken a course in baking and pastry arts, was the expert of the two. They judged the pies and cakes on appearance, balance of the filling and pastry, and flakiness of the pastry.

At the other end of the room, Bob Mitchell and Derek Wulff closely examined a cherry tomato that looked like it was sprouting little devil horns, the lone entry in the cutest vegetable category. The pumpkin growing into a cinderblock had a lock on the weirdest vegetable prize. Two carrots wrapped around each other like lovers sparked the creation of the “intimate vegetable” category, which volunteers deemed a more family-friendly name than “sexiest vegetable.”

Just outside the judging room, which was sealed off like the papal conclave until winners were announced at 1 p.m., a throng of people perched over a metal pen as a chicken clucked around on a mat sectioned off into numbered squares.

The chicken probably had no idea that the dozen or so surrounding people had put money on where it would poop, a rousing game of chicken bingo. The chicken took its time, leaving one organizer to muse that it was taking longer than normal to make a deposit. Finally, after a few failed escape attempts, the chicken left its mark on number 23. A man named Keith celebrated and walked away with his winnings, which would likely buy him a few baked goods or artisan crafts being sold by the fair’s 100 vendors.

Despite the rain, kids were lined up for hay rides (still 25 cents) and the chance to operate an excavator (50 cents).

But to get back to the moment everyone was waiting for. The winner for best pie or cake in show went to 14-year-old Arwyn Ferguson with a stunning cake carefully crafted to look like a classic apple pie. Kate Romain won best first-time pie entry and Sean Palmer won the prettiest pie with a unique design that looked like a sheep grazing in a field.

O’Connell, who received a honourable mention, will have to try again next year.

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