By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

The Arkansas Pie Festival returned to Cherokee Village April 28 for the third time. The rain moved out early and large crowds made their way to enjoy a super sweet (and at times messy) fun day full of events. Event organizer Graycen Bigger and her husband, Judge Alex Bigger made a full day of the event.

For the first time, the Arkansas Pie Festival offered a Golden Ticket to the champion baking making them eligible to compete in the desert category of the World Food Championship, the biggest food sport event in the world this fall. From the early morning Pie Day 5K to get festival goers blood pumping and pre-burn some of the calories from the tasty treats that would be up for judging to fun ping pong, face painting, and other kids events, the weather was beautiful after the rain passed early. This year, four legged friends also enjoyed the event as the Cherokee Village Animal Shelter took a unique opportunity to host the Cutie Pie Pet Parade during the event. Dogs donning their Pie Festival Best were treated to their own pup cups. The lines were long but moved well as crowds enjoyed filling their sample trays with the delicacies of the bakers famed treats. Getting in on the fun and judging were local dignitaries including the Commissioner of State Lands, Tommy Land and his wife Jaime, Arkansas Secretary of State’s Director of Public Affairs, Honorable Judge John Dan Kemp, Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court as well as state representatives Bart Schulz and Trey Steimel, to name a few. Besides the baking and tasting of America’s favorite desert, perhaps one of the most popular events of the festival was the Pie Eating Contests. Three Categories including Children, Teen and Adult competed to earn the bragging rights and the title of Pie Eating Champion. The contestants got down and dirty eating as much pie as possible in the timed two minute event. The only stipulation was the could not touch the pie with their hands. This event is always a crowd favorite as photos of contestants pie covered faces, often with fruit coming out of their noses epitomizes the country’s love for pie. Saige Traut, one of the child contestants, who won second place had practiced for a long time before the event and even asked Judge Alex Bigger if he could take the rest of his pie home. State Fair Queen Karsyn Thompson was also on stage with the contestants and the event’s Master of Ceremony’s daughter was highly involved, even helping one of the female contestants keep her hair out of the pie as she munched away at the blueberry delight. Pies were weighed at the beginning and end of the timed event by Bigger and the pie plate with the least pie remaining was declared the winner. Two of the con-tests were extremely close. The ultimate winner of the adult division was the two time champion Chandler Slater – who just entered seconds before the contest was set to begin who contestant Jeff Peedy did not arrive. Winners included in the Youth Division were: First place, Alyza English, Second Place Saige Taut and third, Adam Brewer. In the teen division, First Place: Alex (last name not available);Second Place, Nicholas Fowler and Third Place Anthony (last name not available) .In the adult division Chandler Slater took the two time honor, closely edging out Jerry Darr who took second and Cahill Richardson for third. Also present for the event were representatives from AY Magazine as well as Kat Robinson who was signing her new book The Great Arkansas Pie Book, ahead of its release on May 9. Joining her was Arkansas Democrat Gazette Senior Editor and Columnist Rex Nelson. Among the Contestants offering up samples of their mouth-watering pies were: Ozarka College Culinary with their apple pie and somoa pies; The Natural State of Pies lemon berry pie; Millie’s in Cave City coconut cream pie; Dogwood Hills Guest Farm in Harriet’s buttermilk pie; Pocahontas FCCLA’s cherrypie; Flywheel Pies in Prescott’s fried peach pie; Gavin’s Down-town in Harrisburg’s strawberry cheese-cake pie; Chow at 118in Paragould’s chocolate chess pie and key lime pie; Carol’s Lakeview’s pumpkin pie; Holy Smokes Barbecue in Mountain Home’s peanut butter pie; The Pie Folks in Cordova, Tenn. Ba-nana Cream Pie; and, this newspaper’s favorite- Spring River Draft house’s peanut butter explosion. At press time, the winners list was not yet available. This news agency will publish it in next week’s edition. The Arkansas Pie Festival has continued to grow and attract larger crowds each year. One of the event attendees made the trip from Kansas. Debbie Upptegraff said, “We love finding unique festivals. We came from Kansas just for this and had a great time. We thought it was nicest laid out with the sample tables, games and music in the middle, and all the other tables and fun around the edges. Plus places to sit. Oh yeah, the pie was pretty dang tasty too.”