Two coalitions of Carroll County businesses duked it out Wednesday night, competing for the honor of buying the grand champion cake at the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair.
Bids for the two-layer Southern Coconut Cake, baked by first-time entrant Michalina Miller, 15, of Westminster, started in the thousands and quickly ratcheted up higher and higher.
Trevor Hoff, who represented the Carroll County Farmer’s Syndicate, raised his card against Kenny Staley, of Staley’s Body Shop in Westminster, as the bids reached $10,000, then $15,000.
Ultimately Staley and his group of about two dozen local businesses, called the Good ‘Ole Carroll County Farm & Business Supporters, made the winning bid of $20,000.
As auctioneer Jeremiah Herbst called out “Sold!” the large crowd, gathered under a tent on the hot August night, let out a huge cheer.
The $20,000 sale price for the Southern Coconut Cake was a Carroll County Fair record, according to Amy Petkovsek, superintendent of the cake auction, the chief moneymaking event for the fair.
Petkovsek has been involved with the fair for more 20 years — first as a child participant, then a volunteer and now as the superintendent of the fair’s premiere event.
Petkovsek said the Good ‘Ole Carroll County Farm & Business Supporters pooled their efforts for the first time in 2018 to make a record-breaking bid of $12,000. The group beat that record in 2019, paying $15,000 for the grand champion cake.
In 2021, Staley’s group and Hoff’s group joined forces and purchased a Swedish tea ring cake, complete with a cherry garnish and slivered almonds arranged in sunburst patterns, for $16,000.
The cake auction annually raises thousands of dollars to support the Carroll County 4-H program. The money also allows fair admission to remain free to visitors. It is the only fair in Maryland that does not charge an entrance fee, Petkovsek said.
In 2021, the cake auction raised $111,875. That broke the previous record of $87,300, set in 2019.
On Wednesday, a total of 179 baked goods were sold at the auction, bringing in another record-breaking total of $130,000, Petkovsek said.
On Thursday morning Staley and his crew had already sliced into Michalina’s Southern Coconut Cake.
“The cake is very, very good,” he said. “It’s amazing, the quality of the cake. These kids are very, very talented.”
Staley said he and his group enjoy participating in the cake auction each year to support the fair as much as they can.
“It’s to bring in as much money to the fair as we can, so the fair stays free and you only pay for parking,” Staley said.
Michalina had never entered baked goods in the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair until this year.
A member of the Green Outdoor and Environmental Sciences 4-H Club of Westminster, Michalina decided to bake a family favorite, the Southern Coconut Cake, and submit it for judging. It was her sister-in-law, Constance Scott’s recipe, she said, and she knew it would be a winner.
On Wednesday, fair judges named it the grand champion, and by that night, it had sold for a record-breaking total.
“I’m really in shock,” Michalina said Thursday. “I can’t believe it. It went by so fast. I just can’t believe it.”
For her efforts, Michalina received a blue ribbon and two special rosettes. She will also get some cash premiums for her cake, totaling about $30.
Michalina’s winning cake included a filling of cream cheese, milk and buttercream frosting. It was covered with toasted coconut shreds.
“It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard,” she said of baking the cake. “My dad really likes it.”
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The Carroll County 4-H Youth Development Program is a branch of the University of Maryland Extension, a nonformal education program that’s part of the school’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Youths ages 5 to 18 join 4-H clubs focused on livestock raising or other interests, such as robotics, archery or the environment. Members work on yearlong projects and the fair is the capstone event for the clubs.
Club members registered with the Carroll County 4-H program can enter a variety of baked items in the fair each year, including decorated cakes, cookies, pies, quick breads and yeast breads. These items are judged and blue-ribbon winners may be entered in the auction for purchase. The Cake Auction Committee has final discretion for determining which items will be included in the auction. Other baked goods that don’t make it into the auction are sold at a bake sale.
Youths whose baked goods make it into the auction receive a $20 premium. Those whose items are sold in the bake sale get $5.
4-H members also can enter a variety of crafts, canned goods, produce, photography, clothing, woodworking and writing, among other items, and earn premiums for their efforts. Youths also show animals they raise or lease from local farms.
Michalina, whose G.O.E.S. 4-H Club focuses on environmental projects, has entered crafts and flowers at the fair. This year she will show her chickens and her dog, Tippa, a border collie/heeler mix, at the fair.
The daughter of Cindy and Cary Miller, of Westminster, Michalina attends Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania.
The Carroll County Fair runs through Friday, with activities at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, 706 Agricultural Center Drive in Westminster.