The crowds arrived at the Claremont Depot on Saturday with their sunscreen and hunger in tow to enjoy a day’s worth of activities that included a pie baking contest, apron parade, face painting and, of course, the famous pie eating contest.
The weekend affair was the second time Claremonters have gathered together in an ode to the crust-laden confection, the concept of bakeshop owner Annika Corbin.
“The inspiration for the Pie Festival came as soon as I knew that I wanted to open a pie shop in town,” she said. “Claremont embraces the old and the new, which is exactly what the pie festival is all about. Pie signifies something different to everyone, but for many people it's a sentimental part of their family history. My goal is to make it part of the present, for them and their children and grandchildren.”
The convivial spirit was certainly alive with all things pie providing a platform for a range of family-friendly activities—pie making demos, recipe card scavenger hunt and a classic car show, a highlight for young and old.
The pie baking contest added further excitement to the day’s festivities, and a welcome indulgence for the day’s volunteer pie judges. First and second place honors went to six lucky bakers who competed for best cream, custard and fruit pies. Sydney Hwang took a break from her studies to compete and win the CUSD student category for her lemon meringue pie, and Patricia Lapiezo took home the overall prize for her tantalizing “It’s all about the Peanut Butter” pie. Ms. Lapiezo must have a gift in the kitchen, because the dedicated baker also took home first place mentions for her Paradise in a Pie custard creation and her Touch of Cherry Berry.
The merriment wasn’t restricted to Pie Festival headquarters at the depot or the pie shop itself at 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd, Suite 102B. It was a community-wide effort. Down at the Packing House, the Chef’s Academy led kids in pie-pop making while Studio Claremont artists enjoyed making pie-inspired masterpieces. Throughout the Village, shop owners got into the spirit with participation in the scavenger hunt.
“Our goal was to encourage the festival folks to visit shops they've never seen before and elements of the festival like the Recipe Card Hunt and having various events in various locations were designed to accomplish this,” Ms. Corbin said.
Local businessfolk did their part to help Ms. Corbin in the pie festival preparation as well. The sweet shop owner credits the Village Marketing Group for their role in helping her and her staff pull it all off. “The entire three weeks before the festival, it becomes my full-time job to prepare,” she said.
The Village Marketing Group (VMG) has become expert in such affairs with the annually sold out Wine Walk and Blues and Brews Village crawl, events that have helped boost the local economy.
“We introduce the Village and Claremont in general to a new audience and thus hope this new audience will spend money and help keep our independently-owned business owners smiling,” said Joan Bunte, co-founder of VMG.
Ms. Bunte, who recently closed her Village shop Stamp Your Heart Out to enjoy a deserved retirement, acknowledged these events were crucial for her business.
“We often gave out 'bounce back coupons' that gave the new customer a discount on their next visit. They always worked. We provided excellent customer service by making our guests feel special and welcome,” she said. “It's all about the customers. They are our lifeblood of our businesses. We would go 'all out' for them and I promise you, it always paid off.”
The VMG looks to its customers for its latest campaign, to further the fun in Claremont’s downtown with the addition of a band stage at Shelton Park. Local supporters have responded in spades. To date, more than $94,000 has been raised toward the group’s goal of $100,000 to begin construction.
With less than $6,000 to go, group members are getting ready to throw another Village party. A fundraiser will be held on Sunday, April 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Walter’s Restaurant, 310 Yale Ave. Tickets are $35 a person, including hors d'oeuvres and a drink, and can be purchased at Aromatique, Bert & Rocky’s Cream Co., the Claremont Chamber and Rio de Ojas. For more information, visit www.sheltonparkstage.com.