The little-known elderberry pie category is one of the best bets for a big cash prize at the Sandusky County Fair.
The fair in Fremont is one of the few in the area to auction off top prize-winning baked goods from competitions that anyone can enter. At many fairs, baked good auctions are only for youngsters in 4-H or other youth organizations.
The Sandusky County Fair is also one of the only fairs that gives a significant amount of cash from such an auction back to the bakers. The fair splits the checks 50-50 between the Sandusky County Agricultural Society, which puts on the fair, and the competitors.
The record auction bid was $4,000 paid for a blueberry pie in 2002.
Elderberry pies, according to the fair's baked goods director Brenda Schwochow, often sell for $250 to $500. The winners in more common classes, such as apple, typically bring $50 to $75.
A big reason for the price differential is Wendelle Miller, 79, a fair board member since 1991 who was fair secretary-manager from 1978 to 2000.
Elderberry pie is Mr. Miller's favorite, and for years, he has bought at least one of the top two pies that sell in the auction. Regulars at the fair know that and some aren't afraid to bid the price up on him.
"Sometimes he pays an outrageous price," his wife, Eileen, said.
Not everything at the baked goods auction, which starts at 7 tonight, goes for big bucks. Winning breads sometimes sell for $2 or $3.
The top cobblers also go in the auction, but the pies and cakes tend to be the crowd-pleasers, Ms. Schwochow said.
New at the fair this year is a cheerleading contest Saturday morning organized by the YMCA in Fremont and a "powder puff" class in tonight's truck races.
Women could always drive a pickup truck in the races around the fair's one-third mile track.
But this is the first year for a class that is limited to women, and 18 have been entered, fair board president Tom Overmyer said.
Many fair competitions drew more entries than last year, including several 4-H and FFA livestock shows and open class flower shows, he said. But entries in the farm and garden area - which range from sweet corn, tomatoes, and melons to hay and field corn - are down, victims of a rainy spring and cool weather.
"The tomatoes aren't ready yet," Mr. Overmyer said.
Tomorrow night's Broken Horn Rodeo in front of the grandstand will be the first time in years that the fair has hosted a rodeo.
The biggest grandstand show, however, is expected to be Saturday night's country music concert.
Mr. Overmyer said he is hoping that 5,000 people buy grandstand admission tickets ranging from $15 to $30 to hear Lorrie Morgan, known for "Dear Me," "Five Minutes," and "What Part of No," and Blake Shelton, known for "Ol' Red" and "Playboys of the Southwestern World."
Fair organizers predicted 80,000 people will attend the fair over its six-day run, which would be the same as last year. The fair has one of the highest gate admission prices in the area - $7 for ages 3 and up - but it includes entrance to mechanical rides.
Contact Jane Schmucker at:
Sandusky County Fair runs today through Sunday at 901 Rawson Ave., Fremont. Admission: $7 for ages 3 and up, which includes all mechanical rides. Free admission for people age 62 and over and military veterans Thursday. Phone: 419-332-5604. Web site: sanduskycountyfair.com
Today: Truck races at 7 p.m. Tickets: $2.
Tomorrow: Broken Horn Rodeo at 7 p.m. Tickets: $5.
Thursday: Demolition derby at 7 p.m. Tickets: $5.
Friday: The Van-Dells, a 1950s and 60s musical group, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $2.
Saturday: Country music stars Lorrie Morgan and Blake Shelton at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15, $20, and $25. (The $30 tickets are sold out.)
Sunday: Demolition derby at 7 p.m. Tickets: $5.