Written By Lisa Breslin
Never underestimate the power of baked goods, especially when it comes to the annual Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair Cake Auction. For more than 30 years, the fundraiser has pulled in big bucks as businesses and generous members of the community pay anywhere from $200 to $3,000 for a baked treat.
Yes, $3,000. At this year’s Aug. 3 cake auction, Norman Condon, Jr. of New Windsor spent that amount for the grand champion of all baked goods, a lemon-lime soda cake created by 12-year-old Eric Dodson of Hampstead.
Hundreds of people packed the auction tent; approximately 280 registered bidders were dispersed among the crowd. Men in pressed blue shirts and khaki pants stood next to folks in bright yellow T-shirts that stated “I Dig Pig.” Sweat dripped and folks eased heavy air toward themselves with paper fans from the Carroll County Health Department that read “It’s never too late to stop using tobacco.”
Sometimes the businessmen and women bid for their own companies; other times, they send a representative with a blank check. The top purchaser over the 2000-2004 period has been Ben’s Rental, Inc./Ronnie Hoffman., with a total of $10,500. Auction lore suggests that any candidate who wants to win a local election has to show up at the auction and bid high.
“We’ve been coming to the cake auction for about 20 years,” said John Witiak. “My kids grew up with this auction – we may have missed one. I love seeing what the kids have accomplished and I always hope to go home with a couple of things. The prices have gone up – but that’s fine.”
4-H bakers proudly marched their baked goods –more than 200 of them–down the aisle while auctioneers (Nevin Tasto, Neal Owings, Bryan Greene, Jim Beaver, Bruce Witte and Rachael Troppman) bantered with the crowd.
By the time the last auction cry was answered at 11:45 p.m., the 4-H’ers’ baked goodies –everything from tea rings and a tie-dyed cake, to a decorated fish bowl, horse’s head, hat, and tractor cakes– had raised $63,780 – a record amount that topped last year’s impressive total of $56,850.
“We’re all amazed by the continued success of the auction and the generous community involvement,” said Fran Crispin, cake auction superintendent. “The money raised will help pay premiums [money paid to 4-H’ers for contests they win at the fair], and it will help keep our fair free. Carroll is the last county to offer a free fair; others charge.”