When Jennifer Wendling’s daughter, Addy, prepared for the Clark County Fair here in Ohio last year, Jennifer supported her and a natural thing happened. If you’ve ever been around the teens who participate in 4-H and FFA projects out at the fair, you know how high their enthusiasm goes.
It is that enthusiasm and positive attitude of Addy’s that rubbed off on her mom and, of course, we all know where that leads. Jennifer came down with a case of fair fever. This year while helping Addy prepare for the fair, Jennifer absorbed more of that enthusiasm. She wanted to participate too. While open class entry deadline was past, Jennifer read the fair book and found she could enter PIE DAY on Tuesday.
Jennifer was about 15 when she baked her first pie in home economics class. She’s baked many since then for family and friends. Tuesday’s contest required the pie to have a lard crust. So, in order to get it right, Jennifer picked up lard at Copey’s Butcher Shop in Medway, checked her stash of Tombstone peaches purchased when the Peach Tree Truck came through our area, and spent the evening before the contest baking a pie to test her usual recipe using lard. She was not satisfied with the results. Did that deter her? Nope.
Tuesday morning found her baking two different recipes of pastry. Baking two pies and two pans of scraps to taste test, Jennifer just kept building her enthusiasm and excitement for the whole venture.
By the time she got herself and her best pie to the check-in table, she admits she was a bundle of nerves. She said she just couldn’t understand it. In her job as a respiratory manager at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Ohio, she meets and deals with people and patients all the time.
She said, “I’m normally a very calm person. It’s just a pie. Why am I so nervous?”
We know the feeling well. It’s called fair fever and by now, Jennifer was knee-deep in it. Symptoms are excitement, butterflies in the stomach, wanting to talk with others with the same diagnosis, wanting to stay and watch the judging while at the same time not wanting to stay and watch. (Staying always wins out.)
In a field of 15 contenders with fillings of apples, peaches, pecans, berries and even mincemeat, Jennifer’s pie stood out with its decorated top of a bouquet of sugar flowers. The judges thought it was a nice touch. Her pie scored fine on taste of crust and filling, although it didn’t place due to a slightly underdone crust. It is a common mistake, easily corrected next year.
Will there be a next year for Jennifer at the fair?
“Oh, yes, I loved it. I loved the excitement, talking with everybody and how friendly everyone was. It was a wonderful way to spend a vacation day. I am already thinking of what canned goods and baked goods I can enter. I don’t think I’ll lose any excitement, even if I have to wait a whole year.”
Her husband, Tim, who works at Time Warner and is a captain at the Mad River Township Fire & EMS, is anxious for next year to get here, too. He couldn’t believe the auction results when Jennifer’s pie was purchased for $110. He’s going to be there to check out all these people who pay hundreds of dollars for a pie. (Or thousands – this year set a record for amount paid for a pie, $2,015!)
With Addy and her FFA projects, Jennifer and her pies and canned goods, and the laughter and camaraderie Tim finds at the auction, Jennifer figures he’ll probably catch fair fever too. Then look out. The Wendling family will officially be part of the latest generation to join the Clark County Fair.