Tables stacked with cakes, racks stuffed with pies, dozens of cookies: The Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair exhibit building would have put a bakery to shame prior to Friday’s baked goods auction.
The goods, which had been judged the previous night and that morning, were all wrapped, bagged and ready to be sold.
“I would think, after you look at all the carts, we have maybe 300 to 400 things,” said Tawna Smith, who heads the exhibits.
The goods had been broken up into groups, mixing blue ribbon items with second- and third-place-winning goods, she said. Chocolate cakes and cookies, pies and fresh bread, whoopie pies and apple pies: All were ready to go to the highest bidder.
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The auction was slated for noon, several hours before its typical 4 p.m. start time in previous years.
“They wanted to open everything a little earlier this year,” Smith said, “So I don’t know how it will work out yet.”
Smith said she’s been working with the exhibits for four years now.
“I’ve been coming to this fair since I was a kid,” she said. “In fact, my grandmother used to do what I do now.”
When Smith was a teenager, her mother, Virginia Letterman, took over fair duties and still helps to this day. Smith has her son, Nicholas, 13, helping as well.
The auction kicked off to a modest crowd. Gray clouds threatened rain, but the downpour never came.
Barry Kerstetter auctioned the goods off, his rapid-fire rattle mixed with quick-witted bantering as he egged on fair regulars to spending just a little more.
He was assisted by newly minted Grange Fair queen Emily Allegar and queen runner-up Halee Wasson, both of State College.
Visible in the crowd were Centre County Commissioner Steven Dershem and President Judge Thomas King Kistler, both of whom purchased their fair share of pies and cakes.
The largest purchase of the auction went to Jennifer Humphrey and David Hulce, of Bellefonte, who spent $50 for blue ribbon iced cinnamon rolls and a pie.
The duo ended up spending $165 total in goods.
“(Fifty dollars) is really low for this year because they changed the time,” Humphrey said. “I think a lot of people who were normally here couldn’t be here today.”
One regular known for his spending at the auction is Don Waltman, who owns a meat market in Williamsport. Waltman was unable to attend due to an injury, according to Smith.
Humphrey made the most out of her bids.
“The auction itself is fun and we like baked goods,” Humphrey said. “We freeze it and eat it throughout the rest of the year.
“We actually finished, a few days ago, the last piece of last year’s first-prize chocolate cake.”
Humphrey and Hulce walked away with this year’s prize chocolate cake as well.
In all, the auction made $1,610, a bit less than last year’s total of $2,700, according to Smith. She said the earlier time probably didn’t help.
“Later in the day is better for judges and such,” she said, “because they’re done for the day at that time.”
The money made goes toward the fair’s land fund, Smith said.
Kerstetter, who has been an auctioneer since the late 80s, said he thought the event went well.
“I’ve been doing this for many years,” he said as he packed away his sound equipment. “Every auction is what it is.”